Today's poem is by Leslie Contreras Schwartz

The Swim to Antarctica
        After Lynne Cox

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

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

Then she is submerged in the freezing water, 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 and suggestion
and 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 and wet and ice, her fingers and toes blooming.

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

Copyright © 2016 Leslie Contreras Schwartz All rights reserved
from Fuego
Saint Julian Press
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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