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John Zurawski

Blood Only Shows

Down toward
A ruddy prayer spot

Could not

Grind away
An indelible
Clot remains

The page, like
A Buddhist
Carves floorboards


Most Saturdays, I skip the cereal and cartoons
And trudge to open swim at Welles Park. With a
Rolled up beach towel and maroon swimsuit
That smells of last week's chlorine, I step out
On a virgin blanket of snow. The skeletal trees of ice
Drop their fingers across my path to an inner city pool
Whose glass double doors and painted gender signs
On block tile walls invite men and women toward
Public locker rooms where chilled stale sweat creeps
Out past rows of rusted double-deckers and mirrors that pretend.

I'm quick to inflict the pain of a cold swimsuit and erect nipples
And reject the "mandatory showering before entering" sign to
Enter a 3/4 Olympic, complete with spring boards and balcony seats.
The surrounding 15" sliding patio doors reveal Chicago's harsh season
Like being inside a snow globe. I watch out
As the rising winter sun melts the surrounding frost,
Translucent slides of gold slice through
The deep end of our fear.

From my juvenile jump in at 4', I submerge, warm,
Then push off and torpedo… 5', 6', 6 1/2',
Hovering along zebra tiles, then drop off to 9'
Like a snowboarder into a half-pipe.
I push off again toward 10', rising
Like a shark to prey. I resurface and explode in breath!
Gasp and spit, cling to rail, then backstroke away
And float.

With my face exposed to my ear
I hear the muffled sounds:
The spring of the board,
The splash of a shadow,
The breast of a stroke,
And then a moment later, a wake.
Not enough to send this buoy adrift
But just enough to cascade the screams
Of hidden abuse and 2 a.m. peanut butter runs
Into the abyss of my Zen pool.

Most Saturdays, everything stops when I float.

While my roiled thoughts drift up toward the antiseptic tiles
And round fluorescent lights from the fifties, I inch my way
With polite hand paddles like cups through a punch bowl
Across the ceiling from deep to shallow
Until the lifeguard whistle sounds…
It's over.

Now, I float, like breast cancer in remission
On a purple yoga mat in corpse pose
6' from my metal prison bed
The screams are gone,
But the peanut butter remains…

John Zurawski is the single father of John Luke, 17, and is working on his Bachelor's degree in chemical dependency while incarcerated at the Arizona State Prison in Kingman, Ariz. His publication credits include Richard Shelton's "Walking Rain Review" (2005-2009). He also works in prison as a yoga and meditation instructor. Writing has given him the ability to remove himself from the bars around him and "to prove my worth to my family," he says. It's now as much a part of his life "as food and water." "It's hard to know how good one's work is. I only know that writing makes me feel whole."