Night Swimming

George Witte

Midsummer, wind across the lake
the humid morning breath of thunderheads.
Too small for awkward jutting oars
I rowed in futile circles, out of synch.
My boat heaved broadside whitecap waves,
near swamped; both oarlocks tore from sockets, gone.
Adrift, embarrassed and undone
I wept until you dove with lifeguard’s grace,
precise swift strokes and scissor kicks
that found a mooring line to draw me in.

The verge spreads black and calm, immense.
I’m far beyond familiar lakefront homes.
My wake’s erased itself; low clouds,
no star or moon to reckon bearing by
nor voice encouraging from shore.
All night you leap across the boundary
and swim me down but water pulls
again, again, an awful knowingness
so cold you gasp and lunge to touch
this hand I reach with, grasping only air.

Originally published:
January 1, 2018

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