Swimming at Becca’s Before We Heard What Happened

We drank the cold Cokes so fast they were gone
but the cans were still sweating into a puddle, flooding
the small glass table between our lounge chairs.

All summer we’d had late curfews, sipped vodka
from water bottles by Lake Monroe after dark, driven buzzed
to get garlic fries and hide the booze on our breath.

In an hour, we’d learn a girl from school was dead.
We weren’t smarter than her. Weren’t less reckless.
For no good reason we were luckier. Just luckier.

Becca lifted her empty can and twisted the metal tab
just short of severing. Another? she asked and stood,
still dripping from our last swim. Her wet feet

smacked the limestone pool deck. Behind her,
the screen door slammed. The stone was so warm
her footprints barely appeared before the sun took them back.

Artist’s Statement
In this poem, I was trying to convey the sensation of those “before and after” moments in your life. How a moment can seem benign—even good—but then something happens that changes your perception and memory of it.

Mary Ardery is originally from Bloomington, IN. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Missouri Review’s “Poem of the Week,” Fairy Tale Review, Cincinnati Review’s “miCRo” series, Prairie Schooner, Salt Hill, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, where she won an Academy of American Poets Prize. You can visit her at