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On My Seventieth Birthday I Try to Skinny-dip
in Boston Harbor

I cover my nakedness this morning
with an outsize purple tee, "Outrageous
older woman" scrawled in pink across
the chest. A gift from my son, daughter-
in-law. Beneath it, the only part of
my body where my skin fits me still,
unmarred by time—my shoulders.

Sunrise, ebb tide, half an inch of water
covering Tennean Beach's pebbles, mud
I sink into as soon as I step out toward
dawning sun. Planning this baptism I
forgot to check tide charts: I'd have to
wade through seventy feet of muck to get
my feet wet: no quick strip and dip here.

Turning seventy: I never imagined this.
Years ago, when I'm visiting my eighty-
something mother-in-law, she's gossiping
about a neighbor, calls her "an old lady"
—stops herself, says, "I know I'm old
too, but not inside." Inside, what age
am I? Thirty, eighty, fourteen?

Will sinking into this muck renew me?
On the drive home, passing a shallow
wetland between abandoned factories,
I see a flash of white: two egrets gingerly
wading, stepping, spreading their wings
in the risen light over a brood of hatched
fledglings, as new as aging is to me.

Sandra Kohler

Prairie Schooner

Fall 2013

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