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Breath & Shadow

Spring 2016 - Vol. 13, Issue 2


written by

Linda A. Cronin

Three times a week, I come to the pool

at Children’s Specialized Hospital to exercise.

Even in the middle of winter, the warm, moist air

reminds me of the humid days of summer. Since

I’m unable to descend the ladder or to walk on land,

when I am ready Pam transfers me to a stretcher

which is lifted out over the pool then lowered gently

into the water where Sue stands ready to release me.

I sink into the pool, warm as a bath, until only

my head remains above the surface, bobbing.

I relax, taking a deep breath. My arms rise,

levitate like a leaf in a pond,

lift from my sides where they hang,

waiting. My legs awaken, bend and straighten

with a freedom absent on land. Here,

in the water, gravity melts, releases

its pull on my limbs, no longer wrestling me

to the ground. The arthritis that greets me each day

frees me from its grip. Here, for thirty

minutes, I’m free to play with the other kids,

damaged like I am. Free to walk and swim.

To wave my arms and kick my legs without

the start and stop of pain, without the stutters

of bone catching on bone. The ghost of my past self

rediscovers motion, a sensation slipping farther

into the mist of yesterday. When the therapist

signals the session’s end, I take a deep breath

then arch my back and dive under

the water, skim across the checkered tiles

of the pool floor, drinking in the freedom,

a balloon drifting in the breeze. I store

the sensation of floating where motion

does not equal pain. I want to drink

in this feeling, knowing it must last

until I am baptized again.

“Baptism” first appeared in the Spring 2010 issue of Breath and Shadow. Linda was a contributing poetry editor for us from 2005 until 2016, and will be greatly missed.

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