Swimming in Antarctica
How she accepts it. How she enters willingly
into the cold. How her skin, almost immediately,
becomes cold as the water is, her body’s heat
pushed deep down under, to protect
her internal organs, that flush with blood, that float
like fish in some warm Mesozoic ocean
as her heartbeat thunders round them, as they move,
just for now, companionable, together.
She see penguins on the dipping, rising shore
and people bundled up who look like penguins,
black against the snow. Her back up team
lean from their inflatables as she threshes water
up like bed sheets, speeding, swimming faster
than she ever swam before, to generate
more warmth, to stay alive, then something
shifting inside her as she starts to swim
straight out to sea, moving so fast they
can do nothing now but watch her slip away.
by Ciaran Parkes
Editor’s Note: The opening line of this poem hooks the reader with a fragment—tension is immediately established. The imagery supports the narrative, and the lines support the movement of the swimmer. This is one of those perfectly written poems that linger in the mind for a good long while after reading is done.