One Poem by Molly Fisk

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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.

  1. HI Mo;;y,
    I so enjoyed listening to you read this poem-SWIMMING, your voice somehow sounding a bit like my voice! Your words flowing along with waves of sound to wash over me (a non-swimmer),buoyant with vicarious strength and fortitude, silently singing-“Will you still love me, when I’m 64″(now actually that and plus 24!), ringing in my hearing aids, not plugs, as I, too, float the last several yards to Key WEST shores, imagining a warm shower, white shorts and shirt, a dry martini, and perhaps a stroll to look for descendants of Hemingway’s cats. Thank you, and tomorrow, (Sunday) another stroll, bundled up on this winter day, to Copperfield’s in Petaluma to order- Everything but the kitchen skunk!

  2. Thanks, Carol! I loved visiting those polydactyl cats, the last time I was in Key West, decades ago. I hope you like the Skunk book. I had a ball writing it. xox

  3. Molly – I could barely swim when younger and stronger but I so admire those who do it well, and who keep on doing it. Including you. This is a wonderful poem. I just forwarded it to my friend and fellow poet Alexa Mergen.

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