Night Swim

by Carla Schwartz

After a day’s work at the home office,

after packing the car with camping gear for a two-week stay,
after the long drive, slowed by traffic,

after pulling into the campground
and snagging the last spot on a pond,

after the hour it takes to park and set up the tent
in the darkening night, the dripping rain,

after finally eating what would constitute dinner:
four carrots with hummus, while seated, dry in the driver’s seat of my parked car,

after a day of not even stretching,
after gathering my swim gear, clothing, and towel, headlamp affixed,

I step carefully down the steep, root-strewn path, that must lead to the pond.
At the water, in the almost pure dark, the rain still drizzles.

Before stepping in, I strip, and don my goggles, cap, and fins.
Before I set out, I make a mental note of my entry point, and its surroundings:

A big, secluded rock, a small cove, an opening in the trees.
There is no moon.

My splashing strokes, the birds, and the constant drip.
By the time I am ready to stop swimming,

the sky is clear, the big dipper, revealed.
A Venus peers down at the lone nude, swimming in the dark.

After I think I am nearing my entry point,
after trying one cove, and the next,

after every opening in the trees looks like every other,
after swimming in and out of every cove,

after approaching every big rock twice,
each blocked by dead wood, (wrong), or grasses (wrong), or other stones (wrong),

all the while swimming, a repetition of coves.
After wishing for my glasses, my suit,
after considering a cry for help, questions surface:

Could I spend the night on a rock, or sleep in the shallows?
Do the turtles sleep, and the fish, or do they nibble all night?

Should I swim to a beach and walk out on the road,
naked, without light?

Venus, without her shell, only fins,
how would she purse her coy smile, if caught?


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