The Best Literary Writing About Mothers and Motherhood

Morning Practice by Patricia Behrens

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The only hard thing is the alarm
everything else I love—
flicking on the coffee

dumping goggles, cap and clothes
into my bag for later
slipping on the suit

greeting the sleepy doorman who opens the door
to the street in morning air that says
Manhattan is an island

with its scent of rivers and tides only blocks away
how the light changes with the seasons
darkening now with fall

how late in winter the sun sometimes rises
while I’m still sitting on a subway plastic seat
the almost-empty car

not yet carrying the scrum of commuters
who’ll be boarding soon, how
leaving the C train behind

I walk 14th Street past still-closed shops
sometimes light-footed
in open summer sandals

sometimes with breath steaming the winter air
wearing bulky clothes, knowing I’ll soon
be almost naked under water

the bracing entry through the Y doors
into different light
stripping to my suit

stepping through the cleansing shower to the pool deck
the shock of entry into water
where I feel weightless

buoyant, strong, my clever toes pushing off the wall
so I glide like a bird
radically alone

until I see feet ahead like warning taillights on a road
where we swimmers aren’t
lawyers, architects, or journalists

but suit colors and limbs, intervals and speeds
leaving five seconds apart, known by our pulls, kicks
and turns and how polite we are at walls

how in water my thoughts drift un-tethered
pulled by my arms and rhythmic breath
my rotation through supporting water

until I swim from Manhattan into the blue Aegean—
and I am off the coast of Naxos
making for distant Koufonissi

before the time comes for the lanes to change
and a woman crouching in a flowered Speedo
taps me on the shoulder

the hot shower afterward, and how back
on the now-full subway for the beginning of the day
I don’t mind it when I have to stand.

Patricia Behrens is a lawyer and writer living in Manhattan. Her poetry has previously appeared in the Mom Egg Review, as well as on-line and in other print publications including The Same and The Main Street Rag.  She is the co-editor of Courthouses of the Second Circuit: Their Architecture, History, and Stories (Acanthus Press, 2015). She is also a lifelong pool and open water swimmer, looking forward to swimming off the Greek Cyclades islands in the fall.


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