Tides

You said, I want to go to Northland

where rivers become oceans on hot plates of sand

and touch each other’s tentative fingertips. 

Where fish and chip shops line the shoulder

of every cabled-road, and my gnarled fingers

grab tough fistfulls of sand.

No matter how much you try to avoid it

it always has a way of catching up with you.

It is as small as a pin-hole, made ragged with age.

When the demands of grief were piling up

and the vast expanse of water

was shovelling gravel at my feet. 

You said, I think we’re going to find our way 

while I’m amazed to have made it this far,

when a hole had opened in the ground, 

and hands had appeared to grab my ankles.

These days I am happy

but still watching for fluctuations in functioning;

never able to breathe and truly mean it.

It came to a head

when I got caught in a rip, a week ago

the kind you can’t see from the shore; purposefully

malignant. 

I threw my weight into a paddle

as the water dragged me out,

arms fading against the pithy white scar

of tides crossing paths.

My arms were tired, and there was panic

catching in my throat, because the water was rising

above my head and I was sick with longing; longing

for the white-caps not to drag me away, this time.

So I remembered. 

Swim to the side, part the ocean’s seam

panting as my body was retched back to shore

like fishbone and spit and sea. 

I thought about the rest of my near death experiences

of which quite a few involve nearly drowning

but I’m not a mid eighteenth century poet

and I don’t want to die before I’m thirty and unsuccessful. 

I sat on the sand

as the slate waves were buffering 

and felt full of burning rage. 

The steady rise and fall of my chest; sun breathing in tandem

I almost screamed. Because ten years later

September still loves

to test me, and is it turns out, 

I am still, somehow, surviving.

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