This poem was published in the journal Ping Pong.


After Lynne Cox

Before the swim, in twenty-two degree waters,
the crew practices her death, then a revival.

She picks out landmarks butting out of the water that look
remembers how the kelp and barnacles held her body in south
Argentine waters.

Then she is submerged in the Arctic, head under against her will.
Her body gasps for air, a tight pocket to hold in her body, a
single draw—

Thirty years of swimming to fight for a single breath now.
She paddles, she argues with her body as it says No, not ever—

and goes faster, harder, plainer. Single strokes make their way
past icebergs
as they scrape her body like glass shards, and in her mind she
places these shards

in the core of herself, breaks them down into heat & suggestion
& sound,
in the pitch of her own voice breaking through to say what she
wanted to say to the body:

you are owned, not owner. Her mind fights the sensations
of deep cold & wet & ice, her fingers and toes blooming.

She remembers the story of the leopard seal skinning a penguin
and the rising memory of survival, nodding like the brash ice
around her.