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3rd Place Poetry Contest Winner - Ella Lukowiak

what it feels like to drown

I. it is slow, the cold settles into bones

unused to the weight of water

lodged in socks and coat pockets

you grab my hand, and i think you mean

to drag me back to shore

surely, you will make good on

your promise of patience

II. i am treading water again

bones aching from throwing myself

into the deep end for you at the first call for help

if you stopped breathing

i would drag you to the shoreline

and press my lips to yours

breathing life back into these lungs

i love so much

III. i answered your voice so many times

i was convinced you were a siren

when i found myself alone with the

swells, i called your name

i waved to you on the shoreline

but your tongue was so far down somebody else’s throat

that you didn’t see me as i screamed

IV. you don’t apologize

it’s not in your nature to turn the

blame inwards, refusing to recollect

how you thrashed when the water bit

grasping my arm to stay afloat

i remember

drawing you the constellation

you danced under until the world was nothing

but shimmering lights and a mirror of yourself

distorted in the disco lights

i was nothing

but a shadow you walked out of

V. i tried to drag myself to the beach

but the water swam into my lungs

i couldn’t breathe, but my bluing lips

still formed your name

i will always love the ocean

no matter how many times you, my

rip-current, dragged me out to sea

i may have drowned, but i held

hands with my killer

VI. when i wash up on shore, my

lips parted and hands outstretched,

you wonder what i was reaching for


Ella Lukowiak is a Jersey Shore native, sunrise addict, and word enthusiast. A undergraduate student at the University of South Carolina Honors College pursuing a degree in English, Ella is passionate about storytelling and aspires to one day publish a novel. Her previous publications include theYoungArts 2022 Anthology and Catalogue: Select Works by YoungArts Honorable Mention and Merit Winners, and the USC magazine Garnet and Black. You can find her on instagram @ellalukewriter.



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