Revere Beach, 1907

Annette Kellerman was an Australian professional swimmer, vaudeville performer, children’s book author, entrepreneur, diver, and actress. She was arrested at Revere Beach in 1907 because she wore a one piece leotard. It was so indecent mother’s put their hands over their daughters’ eyes. Kellerman argued it was dangerous to swim in a pantaloon costume. The judge agreed.

This beach sinks
the puffy white dress,
sucks it into surf,
spits at pretty.

Adios to Sorolla’s
wind-blown women
flicking parasols.

Adieu to Potthast’s
four wives swinging
to “ring a ring a roses”
as husband’s swim.

Hej Hej to Kroyer’s
night beach,
the brushes and the light.

“Undress,” Annette told
women swollen
in pantaloon bloomers,
“or you’ll drown.”

Four years before,
General Slocum sunk.
A thousand women

and children died
spitting distance from shore,
beautiful picnic clothes as heavy
as Woolf’s pocketed stones.

On this beach, between
their wincing mothers’ fingers,
girls glimpse the black

curve of her body
in a skin-tight suit,
see the shape, pick up
the changing light.