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Nightswimmer Junior, Mackinac Butterfly

Because she can. That’s the reason Nightswimmer Junior
swims six miles between peninsulas at the Straits of Mackinac.
She climbs in near the cannon at the old colonial fort,
aims for the pasty-happy city of St. Ignace. N.J. stays unseen
where swimming’s prohibited in the Big Mac right-of-way.
Auto traffic overheard rolls on steel mesh decks.
The bridge she butterflies below parallels Line Five—
a decrepit oil pipe that fools in the Fifties strung ‘cross the lakebed
where Huron & Michigan mix uneasily. It’s bound to rupture.
But not tonight, statistically. Real risks
go with these projects. Not the least these choppy waves
which shift as fast as she reacts, almost dashing her
on a tower’s concrete caisson. N.J. corrects, pushes through,
meets her driver on the rocky shore of Yooperland.
He shares smoked whitefish, protein from nearby
to replace burned kilocalories. Nightswimmer Senior (retired)
turns the engine over once N.J. settles in the shotgun seat.
Instantly asleep. South at sunrise, back to base.
Her hair’s dry by Petoskey. He hums to the radio,
which is on but barely loud enough
to distinguish noise from signal, for those
who don’t already know the song.
In her dream she reaches back to birth.

Todd Mercer was nominated for Best of the Net in 2018. Mercer won 1st, 2nd & 3rd place of the Kent County Dyer-Ives Poetry Prizes and the won Grand Rapids Festival Flash Fiction Prize. His chapbook Life-wish Maintenance is posted at Right Hand Pointing. Recent work appears in: The Lake, The Magnolia Review, Praxis and Softblow. Mercer and his wife Michaeleen Kelly adopted a rescue dog (Garpur-Bradley) who’s awesome but only talks when it is important.

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