what’s a diving board?

This piece is featured in our fall 2020 issue. We invite you to download this special print issue here.

What's a diving board? by Emmanuelle Sippy - Photo by Annie Poole

i’ve never gone swimming in the city fountain.
the honorary streams of firefighters and horses don’t cool me down.
but when i look at the mothers and children wading in the drip-drop down man o’ war’s neck,
i don’t think of too-cool-for-school-spontaneity.
they aren’t drawn to waters as lawbreakers.
their demeanor doesn’t recall teenage-risk-flaunting.
they’re not swimming in a city fountain because there is a thrill to shallow water
where you

or jump
or cannonball, 

though no sign postage says so, a doctor might.
not to say firefighters live a cushy life, just
the moms swimming aren’t commemorated for risking their lives,
are at the door wading, while a loved one dies,
aren’t owning the horse jockey’s ride.
they swim
in the water,
and i wonder how long, not why.

Artist’s Statement: Living on a main street of a former border state, I’m only minutes away from what used to be a slave auction. The juxtaposition of fighter fighters, rightfully honored by a fountain and the unrecognized work of the women & children of color who swim in it strikes me, especially in this moment when only some are deemed essential workers.
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Emanuelle Sippy is a high school senior in Lexington, Kentucky, and is so happy to return for her third year as a jGirls+ editor and art department head. She co-directs the Prichard Committee Student Voice Team, collaborates on the Education Justice Collective's Move School Forward Campaign, and organizes with Future Coalition. Emanuelle enjoys cooking, exploring the intersections of art and activism, and conversations about everything from poetry to politics.
Accompanying photo: “Off Limits” by Annie Poole