you are not what i want, thalasso

The shoreline rattles. Fist-sized rocks roll front to back,
like thousands of hands desperate to hang on every time
they’re dragged from the dry land. And so much red seaweed
has been thrust under the sun, melted between the stones,

that it has taken the consistency of burned flesh.
Yet ahead, more revulsions: the cracked bottom half
of a horseshoe crab, a seagull carcass with webbed leg still attached,
black skate cases long dried and stilled. You see?

I have reasons for my all-consuming fear of this American ocean,
but I admit: even creeks and rivers have been suspect to me.
I have read too many stories with leeches and other creatures,
primed for pinching and destroying if I take the wrong step.

Huron, clean and known, you store thousands of my footprints
like fossils, and every summer, I burrow down my toes to recover.
But not this year, nor next, I fear, with the shutters drawn
between my countries, and so, thalasso, full of death and unforgiving:

you are all the water I have, so you can crash up my calves
and loop an arm around my waist like a slithering corset,
but I will not squeeze my eyes shut,
and I dare your undertow to try and take me.

And as I taste the salt-strings of my hair I’ll sing grace, grace,
because there is more color in the ocean than I’d known,
silver salt clouds, golden funnel-billows,
mint in the crest, violet in the stones,

and yellow ochre sways like forsythia along the seabed,
and I am tempted to lose my edges just as they do
with every current that passes, with every bone that’s gone cold
and longs to be buried.

the simple unfurlings

I watch the ocean crash over my son,
grit my teeth, burst my lungs,
and tell myself wait, wait

though every second apart could be the end,
his body could bob to the surface
instead of bursting forth, laughing.

I can’t trust you, thalasso, not on any shore
but he knows how to face the waves.
At least he has learned that this year.

I don’t know who watches me
here in this country, with all my weeds so wild,
so quick to wrap around the stems of any delicate hope,

too eager for simple unfurlings and easy answers,
but the salt-waves parallel to shore
look the same as Huron, to my surprise:

I see the same rooftop slopes,
green glass tiles, the antelopes in the crest,
how water spreads wide like an offering,

how it always surrenders to the sand.
My son plays dead on the shore
as the foam stampedes over his cliffs,

but I stay deep to watch all the kintsugi cracks of the sea,
that golden electricity, only seen in fleeting,
to feel the bones under my soles in the sand,

to understand breakage and beauty of this water world,
and every drop I know I need
to stay alive.

Photo by Imleedh Ali on Unsplash.