Lisa Ludden



Tread Water, Please



Submerge. It’s better than

Stripped bare and wading knee-deep in the
shudder of anticipation. After time, she confesses,
I only see in flashes. The rest is drawn out of focus
as the static rises in my ears.

Focus – find it to maintain a rhythm
outside of yourself, she instructs.

One stroke, two strokes, three strokes, four-
breathe one, two, convulse – air.

Swim faster, beat the time, hold the breath:
don’t panic- recoil, release.

We alter, she states, the stories of our lives;
we rewrite in order to work back to something
quieter in our minds.

It is the abundance of what is allowed!
What people are drawn to hits hard, she spat.

I don’t feel fit for permanent space.

Hold still, she reminds, slowly move your arms
and count: one, two, three. Steady now.





Holding Pattern


Slumped on the kitchen floor, seeking beautiful sentences,
I don’t want to be available.

I want to be the delicate ache of beautiful sentences
as they latch on to discovery. Where the day

moves with sunlight as its gauge,
and possibility grows out of a natural awakening.

These are my longings, my nostalgia. A nostalgia that isn’t
authentic, but crafted.

Trying to keep up, I neglect the part of my brain that interprets in images,
the edges softening, the pale fade of a slow rot.

The paleness isn’t what I wish away. That is the nature of time.
It’s the static awareness of the withering mind.

There is always small aspect of the self that dissipates, an absence deeply felt.
But the regeneration comes in fits and starts if you let it.








Time in thought stops. Instead—out of body—of out responsibility, the molten thought becomes something heated, something cooled, something burning and there is nothing holding me to the earth but the salt, as if I journeyed here, but the truth is, I’ve stopped breathing for a moment—this halted awakening. I cannot seem to remember exactly what I am.

What I have is the idea of something as it slips open, this collected salt (attached, coarse and flaking) preserves, keeps me in the constant wake of working something new, an uncertain placement. I am not rare; I take on different perspectives, if only for a while.

Emerging through the draping fog, the haze of walking, shedding, equally submerged in the water, moving toward the cool morning sand, foamy and wet footprints are a momentary preservation of what was held so tightly.




Lisa Ludden


Lisa Ludden lives, writes and teaches in Northern California. A finalist for the Tucson Festival of Books Literary Awards, her work is forthcoming or has appeared in The Stillwater Review, The Indianola Review, Riverbabble, Mudfish and elsewhere. She directs the New Works Writing Project for Young REP, where students work to develop ten-minute plays that are then staged for an audience.