Morning Practice

By:  Zoe Myers-Bochner

5:40 a.m.

The sky is still full of the ink

that keeps the December air frosty

and most eyes sealed shut

to keep out the cold.

It takes ten minutes to get to school.

The world is painted indiscernible shades of grey;

buildings along the road think it’s funny

to masquerade as trees.

Still, you know the road to the pool

better than you know your own name.

Bulbs of brightness

bounce off the still water and reflect

into your eyes.

It’s the only place lit up for miles.

5:50 a.m.

The screaming numbers of the clock flash bright red.

You’re ten minutes early,

they say,

but everyone is already there and

coach still lunges at you and you spring

off the gutter’s edge and into the water.

The clock has never lied to you before,

but the water certainly has.

Steam rises off the surface and floats away

through the pool gate; across the deserted highway.

You try to hide

under whatever’s left above the pool’s surface,

but the steam never hid anyone;

just tricked them into thinking that the water’s warm.

It isn’t.

The sun steadily floats

up above cinderblock buildings

that could be mistaken for your arms

at that moment.

Thoughts

of indentured servitude

and even slavery entertain your mind

as the black line beneath you

stretches; the walls crawl apart with every flip

as you push off of them; sending them farther from each other.

Still, you know you’ll be back

that very afternoon and

the next day and the next; even when the days grow longer

and you’re the only ones at the school

the whole year long. (practice is an hour later in summer

but you don’t get to watch the sun rise).

This place (this hellhole)—

it’s your Mecca.

No-it’s Rome because all roads lead there.

(You’re only required to go to Mecca once).

5:45 p.m.

It’s winter—the days are short.

Hair dripping down your back,

you leave school as the sun sets.