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Sainthood in the County Pool

By Alli Lowe

(contest winner)

I am sanctified in the pool bottom’s corner 

by a pair of hands held in anarchy from yellowing wrists

They deliver a baptismal blessing for the burnt; 

a fingerful of sunscreen spread across peeling skin,

a single can of soda, let open in the water, 

contaminating that which was never clean 

From the can’s gaping mouth, waterlogged and contorted in holy


there comes a consecration: 

In this land of filthy limbs pressed against sun-spotted tiles, 

of stinging chlorine and unwashed salt, 

of swim trunks discarded, 

girlhood is clean once again 

In this pool of sweat and grime, this place of dirty sin, 

only here can the young girl be considered righteous, 

only here can she come into her own 

I celebrate, my arms stretched open in rebirth,

marveling at my newly pure body, 

running my hands across it in a devotion never before allowed 

Here in the county pool, so long as I stay hidden and half-


away from the scrutinizing gaze of men, 

I am sanctifier to my kind, no longer an obstruction to guileless


but rather, a magnifier 

My body no longer a pinnacle of vice and lust, 

a reflection of the perceived wickedness of my foremothers 

Instead, it is nothing but my own life source, my own prayer in

muddied water

In this pool bottom’s corner, I live in a world  

where a woman’s breast is more powerful than the hand reaching

for its control, 

where the curvature of her hip mirrors the turning of the earth, 

where her untucked and unformed stomach is worshipped as the

dawn of life,

her body deified as value above all values 

I fold myself into this chlorine cathedral,

into this locus of female divinity, 

arm over arm, leg over leg, 

tangling myself around my own immaculate heart 

I stay in the pool so long a lifeguard comes for me, 

pushes his calloused palm toward my undefiled body, 

smirks as he lays his hands one inch too close 

to my swimsuit’s ill-fitting top 

And with this touch, I am no longer holy 

Sainthood will not come to me again

Artist's Note

I wrote this poem about the transformation/metamorphosis that young girls experience as we grow up in a world that so greatly objectifies our bodies, and how we must find our own spaces to be ourselves. I wanted to convey how we feel reborn as new people in these spaces, and how, conversely, we are often shoved back into stifling molds by those who don’t have our best interests in mind.


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