Marc Darnell

The Swimmer

He came swimming
as I was sinking, a true life guard,
knowing I was running

out of time, pulling
me to shore without a word,
then asking why I was swimming

in currents surely funneling
to rock bottom so hard.
I said, the river was running

by so softly, and I was sunning,
when from the river I heard
the splash of people swimming–

kissing, drinking, and laughing,
and I became jealous. He said,
why, when you are running

a life so well on sand, staying
dry and level-minded, fed
love and literature? Swimming

in solitude leads to dying,
even on dry land. He stayed
a while till I wasn’t running

out of breath, or lying
that I wouldn’t go for dead
by again going swimming.

He said he was in pain, stemming
from his need to run, it led
to injury from running–

a red coal branding
inside his beaten leg. I read
another ache swimming

through his head, and something,
a similar drowning, flooding his head,
that, like me, left him running

in tired circles, finding
aim and drive gone bad,
only left with swimming

in water (and on land), seeming
fine but sharply sad,
and I knew life was running

fast for him, breeding
demons out for blood.
I’m thankful he came swimming

when I was drowning and being
stupid and afraid,
destructive and running

on booze, contemplating
a liquid suicide–
I’m glad, he too, was swimming

through a living barely breathing,
yet diving to my aid,
a pro at endless swimming,
though I know he’d rather be running.


Marc Darnell is a facilities tech and online tutor in Omaha NE, and has also been a phlebotomist, hotel supervisor, busboy, editorial assistant, farmhand, devout recluse, and incurable brooder.  He received his MFA from the University of Iowa, and has published poems in The Lyric, Skidrow Penthouse, Shot Glass Journal, The HyperTexts, Quantum Leap, Aries, Ship of Fools, Verse-Virtual, Blue Unicorn, The Pangolin Review, Awkward Mermaid, and The Disappointed Housewife, among others.

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