Drowning Under the Perfect Wave
Waves of the California Coast
Mavericks, where surfers compete to slide
inside the emerald room of the largest tube.
Pescadero, where girls drip tinctures under
their tongues to sleep awhile, while boys
hide bottles in glove boxes. San Onofre,
where a hushed shore conceals riptides,
a low current counting down to danger.
What to collect at the ocean's edge:
the foam of the tide's lip; a cut that stings, then scars;
brainless hour of surrender; a stone for skipping
I float the afternoon away,
a net the length of California
traps my tongue.
My crowned teeth
catch like metal fishhooks. I think
of the man, his veiny touch
in a room where ice melts.
breaks across my back hard
as a sheet of glass. I'm not a surfer
or a swimmer, my skin uncaught
his wet mouth inside
some grocery store, some elsewhere
orchard. Here, bubbles are briny
flowers. Here, the current leads home.
Surfing at Night
Midnight, into the sea, I paddle, divisions
between water and sky blurry
as I navigate without horizon
shivering, searching for a heavy wave to surf
before it breaks into whitecaps.
I am scared of sharks, rip currents
that threaten the night like thieves,
and that breath could be my coffin
inside the naive sleep of the sea. I strip off
my wetsuit, skin prickling in the cool.
A wave curls me under. All the drowned
before me spin, their voices gagged,
airless bubbles that break
without sound. They hold the quick tide
like a rein in their hands, threatening
to rush me to the sea floor. Above me, shadows
vibrate, my legs twist in the spin cycle,
the hour disappears, reappears.
At last, my head breaches, life unsunk. I hear
my own voice trembling, and unashamed.