Night Swim

By Polly Kimberly

The first time, the water was too cold for us
and we ran naked onto the beach
cupping our breasts in our hands,
the ground thudding up to our thighs,
surf-hard sand quaking our hips.

Heedless women, maybe, but the wind
slapped our foreheads and raked at our cheeks,
and we didn’t want our hair to look pretty.
That was the point, you see; just then
it was out of the question to ignore an impulse.

And I remember that there was moonlight
so that when we stopped running and panted
and gasped at the water’s edge, I saw your face,
pale against the breaking waves and I could see
you were frightened. But still, we climbed

onto a rock and pretended to be mermaids,
preening our flashing tails—but shy, too,
pressing our arms against our chests
until the moon ducked behind a cloud,
until the sea encroached and we had to go.