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Winter Swim

Ann Neuser Lederer

Ice dripped from the rafters onto the curves
of desiccated earthworms, splayed onto the cold concrete.

All around, nine snowy inches pressed up hard
against the four walls of tall glass windows.

The red blood of sunset leached through the frosted glass,
pinking the cheery turquoise waters.

The steam, like on a lake in Michigan just before freezing, hovered,
rather, wavered, almost a foot above the water.

The boy, now a man, appointed temporary lifeguard by his father,
his face indecipherable, picked Ave Maria over and over on his mandolin.

My arms, briefly out of the water, burned as they numbed;
the water, colder than Lake Superior even, a haven by comparison.

My mind, counting, planning to stop at seventy-four, meditating
on the marvels of this number, held its shapely figure high, a grail.

Suddenly, screams to the left of me.

A row of hulks, identically dressed in black coats, dangled--
yes, dangled--a smaller version of themselves, over the edge of the pool.

It was better to pretend to not be witness, so my goal quickly altered--
swimming to one hundred--and they all disappeared.

Ann Neuser Lederer

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