One Poem by Molly Fisk

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Swimming

naiad: one of the nymphs who lived in and
presided over brooks, springs, and fountains
 

That story about Diana Nyad someone told me,
how she occupies her mind on the English Channel swim
or the hours between Cuba and Key West by singing
in her head—oh, don’t we all?—the entire Beatles oeuvre
in the order those songs appear on their albums,
and when she gets to The End she starts over, with I Saw Her
Standing There again, in a shark cage or not, her skin
puckered with dehydration and salt, the cold slowly creeping
into her marrow, her lungs working as hard as or harder than
those of John, Paul, George, and Ringo if they’d stood on stage
and sung the whole list in a row one after another, too,
their lives flashing before them as our lives can when we catch
the first chords of Yellow Submarine or Love Me Do,
what high school gym we were dancing in and with whom,
or which brand of rolling papers some hippie dexterously turned
and licked, and does Diana sometimes pray that a submersible
will rise from below to buoy her or is she stronger than that,
does she stay focused on the notes and not let her mind wander
into kelp fronds and manatees, the deep melodies of blue whales,
what conviction does it take to lift one hand from the sea:
wrist, elbow, shoulder, fluid, turning her chin to breathe,
and then the other hand, in the 47th hour of what will turn out
to be 53 before her toes in their neoprene grip the edge of Key West
and she’s not hallucinating, or only partly, the voices
calling her name, the afternoon sun refracted by ten thousand
pinpricks of white sand, we saw the video, how she waded
through the crowds, her legs still holding her up, her smile
a hundred and ten miles, thirty years, and five attempts wide.

 

 

 

Molly FiskMolly Fisk edited California Fire & Water: A Climate Crisis Anthology, with a Poets Laureate Fellowship from the Academy of American Poets. Her latest poetry collection is The More Difficult Beauty. She works as a radical life coach in the Sierra foothills.

Header photo by optionm, courtesy Shutterstock. Photo of Molly Fisk by Aeron Miller Photography.

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