John Zurawski

Blood Only Shows
Down towardNirvana,A ruddy prayer spot
GlobalTemperatureApexCould not
Grind awayThe DNAAn indelibleClot remains
GrubbingThe page, likeA BuddhistCarves floorboards

Most Saturdays, I skip the cereal and cartoonsAnd trudge to open swim at Welles Park. With aRolled up beach towel and maroon swimsuitThat smells of last week's chlorine, I step outOn a virgin blanket of snow. The skeletal trees of iceDrop their fingers across my path to an inner city poolWhose glass double doors and painted gender signsOn block tile walls invite men and women towardPublic locker rooms where chilled stale sweat creepsOut past rows of rusted double-deckers and mirrors that pretend.
I'm quick to inflict the pain of a cold swimsuit and erect nipplesAnd reject the "mandatory showering before entering" sign toEnter a 3/4 Olympic, complete with spring boards and balcony seats.The surrounding 15" sliding patio doors reveal Chicago's harsh seasonLike being inside a snow globe. I watch outAs the rising winter sun melts the surrounding frost,Translucent slides of gold slice throughThe deep end of our fear.
From my juvenile jump in at 4', I submerge, warm,Then push off and torpedo… 5', 6', 6 1/2',Hovering along zebra tiles, then drop off to 9'Like a snowboarder into a half-pipe.I push off again toward 10', risingLike a shark to prey. I resurface and explode in breath!Gasp and spit, cling to rail, then backstroke awayAnd float.
With my face exposed to my earI hear the muffled sounds:The spring of the board,The splash of a shadow,The breast of a stroke,And then a moment later, a wake.Not enough to send this buoy adriftBut just enough to cascade the screamsOf hidden abuse and 2 a.m. peanut butter runsInto the abyss of my Zen pool.
Most Saturdays, everything stops when I float.
While my roiled thoughts drift up toward the antiseptic tilesAnd round fluorescent lights from the fifties, I inch my wayWith polite hand paddles like cups through a punch bowlAcross the ceiling from deep to shallowUntil the lifeguard whistle sounds…It's over.
Now, I float, like breast cancer in remissionOn a purple yoga mat in corpse pose6' from my metal prison bedThe screams are gone,But the peanut butter remains…

John Zurawski is the single father of John Luke, 17, and is working on his Bachelor's degree in chemical dependency while incarcerated at the Arizona State Prison in Kingman, Ariz. His publication credits include Richard Shelton's "Walking Rain Review" (2005-2009). He also works in prison as a yoga and meditation instructor. Writing has given him the ability to remove himself from the bars around him and "to prove my worth to my family," he says. It's now as much a part of his life "as food and water." "It's hard to know how good one's work is. I only know that writing makes me feel whole."