By | 1 May 2020

we take the steps down to the river and Seva talks to the dog
we woke up, barking us away from her pups, he stills her
in his language, their language, we pass this gatekeeper and cross
the narrow balance beam that leads to the little square pier,
the water is black glass but not frozen thick enough to cut a cross
in it, there is light from someone’s phone, the oldest man puts his towel down
before the ladder, begins to chant, someone checks another phone for the words
then joins in, the man’s son takes off all his clothes
and lowers his body, breathes sharply, seriously, crosses himself,
throws his head down into the black, comes up again,
water crawling from his hair, he looks like he’s crying,
another violent cross then he dives again, resurfaces,
lips pursed to spit out the cold, eyes staring forward
but focused somewhere inside himself, one more cross then under again,
up and back onto the platform and already Seva is stripping off
and taking his place, I watch him and rehearse his movements,
start taking my shoes off, pile my clothes carefully, towel in reach,
he gets out and I take my turn, drop my body into the dark

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