She is barely conscious but those lights two miles ahead
register as Wisconsin. She waded in at Ludington
and launched the great attempt after years of
progressive endurance training. It was often solo
but sometimes with her sympathetic helper,
Nightswimmer (Retired). Fifty-eight or nine miles,
still pressing forward to her personal record.
The training was done in darkness, without sponsors
or the knowledge of any but a couple closed-mouth friends.
Two miles more and she will have beat Lake Michigan.
She’d have made it unescorted, but the old man’s skittishness
put him in a trailing motor-craft. It’s fitted with radios,
snack food, a first aid kit, life preservers, extra gasoline.
The original Life-wish Maintainer, in his prime
he was accused of trying to die on purpose
by riding the rip tides for sport and exercise.
In the present moment N.J. is half an hour from land.
She’s soon to meet the Manitowoc newscasters,
the woman who swam further than most any person can.
Nightswimmer Junior beats doubt, eclipses the mentor.
He’s there, all in, cheering from the contingency boat.
Todd Mercer was nominated for Best of the Net by in 2018. His chapbook Life-wish Maintenance is posted at Right Hand Pointing. Recent work appears in City Brink, Clementine Unbound, The Lake, and Star 82 Review.