north avenue beach
A Lake Michigan Swim
by Tina Hacker

Chicago summers vaporized saliva
so even speaking was painful.
Tourists raved about the skyline,
rows of yachts lazing in the harbors.
But kids knew the lake
was the true attraction, fun and relief
in one package whose ends were open,
spilling thrills.

Bone-chilling waves roared out
like a siren to children being slathered
with sunscreen at the sandy edge.
A few raced in, ducked under,
pretended the water didn’t stab them.
Most approached baby step by baby step,
made genuflecting dips, kneeled to thighs,
then waist, then dove under, exulting
as their bodies embraced the cold.
Hands waved; legs leapt into sky;
imaginations spun bodies
into dolphins, mermaids, great white sharks.

After 40 minutes, parents on shore called,
“Time to come in.” Were ignored.
”Just ten minutes more.”
Wrapped in towels like burritos,
the kids’ lips
wore blue corn smiles.

SOURCE: Previously published in Imagination & Place: Weather.

IMAGE: Vintage postcard of North Avenue Beach, Chicago, Illinois.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I grew up in Chicago, Illinois, and spent many days swimming in Lake Michigan. I don’t know how I did it. That water is beyond cold even at the height of summer. It wasn’t until my family took a weekend trip to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, that I found out that some lakes have warm water. You don’t have to freeze at the beach!

Tina at Magic Flute

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tina Hacker is a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee whose work has appeared in a wide variety of journals, both online and paper. Her full-length poetry book, Listening to Night Whistles, , published by Aldrich Press and her chapbook,Cutting It, published by The Lives You Touch Publications are available on Amazon. Since 1976, she has edited poetry for Veterans’ Voices, a magazine of writing by veterans across the country. This year she was given the honor of being a 2016 Muse of The Writers Place in Kansas City.

AUTHOR PHOTO: Tina Hacker posing behind a cutout at a performance ofThe Magic Flute.