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October 2014, vol 10 no 3

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Doris Lynch

Swimming the Wild Penobscot

For Lu

That day in August '72, you improvised a bathing suit out of red bandanas before we leapt into the Penobscot. Weighted down by half-Levis and a Penn State shirt, I felt the main channel race past, slowly carving a gorge down from the Longfellow Mountains. In our backpacks, we had all that we needed—a change of clothes, dried fruit, a handful of wrinkled $5s. Our hosts promised us a ride to Boston.

The river whirled past—clean and cold. Despite the currents, the knots in your improvised bikini held, covering everything. Earlier, we'd hitched rides up Appalachia's spine all the way from Pennsylvania to Maine as you fended off truck-drivers' advances, even wrestling one in his cab after you ignored my hand signals not to climb into his private sleeping space. Even back then you liked to push borders.

The Penobscot whirled against our limbs. We worked hard to swim in place, dodging torn branches as garlands of weeds raced toward the Atlantic. Later we stained our lips and hands with wild blackberries and listened to the college guys pronounce their o's and r's like the Kennedys. Just before dark, they drove their Buick with fins through a river of light into Beantown.

radio jazz
city moonrise over
an Esso sign