Nightswimmer Junior Debuts


Nightswimmer’s apprentice presents herself for lessons
after he’s forced to give up the risky practice.
She saw him on the news, where the Coast Guard
lowered a man in a harness to save him, helicopter
hovering over choppy waves. The apprentice
swims like a fish, can’t be dissuaded, made to
splash in safe shallows. Not while Lake Michigan
awaits. Nightswimmer tells her strategic mechanics
of countering tows and tides, but her natural logic
already works like that. He’s called “Coach,” a courtesy title.
The amphibious student needs no micromanagement.
By contrast, the mentor first swam at night alone to face fears.
His angst doused, he stretched the objectives,
to see what he was capable of. He fell in love with ritual.
Nightswimmer Junior intends to eclipse the old man.
He champions her surreptitious effort, chides her
to choose life when she wades in. As if
one invested person can prevent someone else’s
autonomous Self from burning to know
what’s over the next hill. As if a woman
who’ll swim miles without boat support
would pity a proxy father figure’s fragile peace of mind.
She fades into East Bay, on a bead-line for the west shore.
Nightswimmer grabs his car keys, leaves the waterfront
for the long road route to the peninsular pick-up:
the point of Old Mission, which in the no-moon moment
strikes him as eerily similar to the new mission.


TODD MERCER won the Dyer-Ives Kent County Prize for Poetry, the National Writers Series Poetry Prize and the Grand Rapids Festival Flash Fiction Award. His digital chapbook, Life-wish Maintenance, appeared at Right Hand Pointing. Recent work appears in 100 Word Story, Defenestration, Dime Show Review, Literary Orphans, Selections—Plum Tree Tavern, The Lake and The Magnolia Review. He’s writing from Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Other poems in the “Nightswimmer” series have appeared at:
Vending Machine Press
Eunoia Review
Right Hand Pointing (digital chapbook series: Life-wish Maintenance)
Gnarled Oak
Softblow Journal
and elsewhere.

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