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January 2020


Sunday Service: Winter Swimming

Unscrew the lid and the steel flask rings like a singing bowl
calling the body to this winter ritual of fixing broken frequencies.
Steam from the enamel cup mists the windscreen
and we swig the coffee down, bittersweet and eager,
hot enough to relieve the brain’s thinking.
Dry Robes slither off the arms, hang on lakeside pegs
and we smirk each time at the sign: No Recreational Swimming.
Toes in, soles of feet laid down on the limestone shingle,
followed fast by ankles and calves, knees and thighs and hips
and pause at the waist
to draw breath, to exclaim, to lower palms to the bream-fin grey
of the icy mirror to the luminescent reeds,
black cormorants, conifers on the near horizon.
Goggles on. Brace. Go. Push into the navy deep,
scuds of shallow waves at the neck.
Hands sweep from prayer to embrace.
Face in, eyes open to the brightening clay floor,
a copse of weed in the water’s glacial clarity
glaucous and strange, a beatific underworld.
This lake has played, bred, killed, fed, held –
our ecstatic skins sing in praise and we drum the yellow buoy
in devotion to this heathen mass,
immerse ourselves in this instant, this place, this body of flesh and water.
Turning toward the shore, we observe the coda of submerged birch
hail again the marvel of the white magpie in its branches
give thanks for this time out of mind, this chattering spirit of renewal.

Image credit: Stuart Ballard / Ballard Creative, copyright 2020