If I Go Missing, Look Here First

There’s a spot on the lake shore
I have chosen to end it all
not too far a walk
from the 47th Bus stop
and it calls to me on nights
when home is a bloodstain
left behind by a murdered language,
on days the walls are suffocating
and the words are empty,
floating belly-up, eyes dumb
in the untenable disquiet,
it calls to me

I know all the routes from
all the starting points
and I’ve taken to keeping
the exact fare in my pocket
and it’s probably the least
heavy thing in my person,
that place

If it’s water, it will take me home

Even if it’s just Michigan on
the opposite shore, it’s water
and I choose it
to carry away the part of me
that will no longer need anchor
or step into land
or breathe air into lungs.
Instead I will be its blue,
the unspoken out of the lips
of the unchanging
and the winds will be
of another world,

harmless, faraway voices
instead of movement
and the violent stirring of waves
that warn of death as an ending,

and what I touch won’t matter
so don’t hold on too tight.

If you find me a few days
later about a mile from
the concrete barrier,
it won’t be me anymore,
but only the part that has
become a burden, which I
struggled with for a long time
in honor of you, that by then
I will have been free of,
the absolution that the water
in all its massive volume
and unrelenting cannot
claim as its own without
needing to spit out the bones,

too impure.
The water would have
taken me home.
Don’t hold on too tight.
Remember that I jumped
because I love you.

The Nautical Miles to Home

We grew up reading the ocean,
ancestral wisdom on a
consciousness of blue

we were taught to gauge depths,
to carry a conversation with
drowning; we’d all recognize
that line if we saw it.

We are a generation for whom
harbor was a starting point.
We were mentored by endlessness,
by the virtues of sandcastles,
by stories of epic battles between
brown, chiseled men and burly,
braggadocious conquistadors
fought on shores

our childhoods were winding
alamat retellings that defined
romance as a beautiful,
extraordinary creature raised by
the ordinary fishing villagefolk,
as perfect pearls farmed by
old women in scapulars to make
the gods get drunk like mortals.

Archipelagic soul,
I taste the foam along the
curves of your time-swept edges.
I am lulled by
the rhapsody of waves.

The Horizon was Made of Glass

It wasn’t a dream.

You and I were standing on a beach.
The distant past was the sun.
The pulsating passion of the city
was the sea.

We stood face to face,
barefooted on the sand,
maybe a little bare-souled too.

I was looking at you,
at the perfection that the light
bouncing off the pristine blue
had created.

And then you spoke.
So I followed your cue.
We pulled stories from around us
as if they were kindling,
talked about previous lives
as if they were soft
enough to be painted.
You even showed me how
to hold the brush.

Our words danced around
in the wind, seasoned with salt
and loaded with so much meaning
it was hard by that point
even for the boats and their
silken, white-as-honesty sails
not to fall in love.

The colors were sinking.
The day was ending,
the breeze had been
emptying the deep and
bringing everything to shore.
Our shared world became
crowded, and punctuated
with voices, and we handpicked
the hawkers from the tourists.

Our silence tasted like cocktails.

You had just arrived
and I was waiting to leave.
Funny how the beach could both
mean a seizing and an escape.
The moments were tied up
in neat little bows made
of paper twine and on the back
side you could see the name
of the island that once contained
your sandy footprints and mine.

And I wanted so much for them
to mean something, but
we would both leave that Paradise,
only at different times
and as different people.

Then the noise of the ocean
swallowed the sun, like it
usually does at the end of dreams.

But it wasn’t a dream.

Mermaid Heart

She can’t stay too long in shallow waters.
The touch of dry souls is like
a crime against her flowing form.
Left to their own devices,
things fall to the ground
instead of emerging on the surface.
All her claims to beauty
seem out of place here:
passion too deep,
hurts too blue,
and the way she moves—
as if she’s certain that everything she does
makes ripples that defy time and distance,
bend light and leave echoes of her siren song
in every corner of the connected,
sentient universe.

Ballast

Sometimes we turn to the darkness
as we stand on the edge
of oncoming, anticipated light
not because it is preferable
or necessary, but because
it comforts and gives a sense
of belonging to the things we carry
and wonder if they have a place
among the changes that are coming.
We mourn all deaths,
even those of what had never been
good for us, those that had been
slowly killing us the whole time.
Realizing they are lost to us
after all the pain of coming
to terms with their presence
and the makeshift beauty
we’ve contrived from the ways
they had made us suffer is
a fear and a melancholy of its own,
and a guilt too, almost
for a time outweighing our relief
for not having to suffer anymore.
Like the passing of a hero,
or the need for one,
making us again ordinary
and searching for the next
difficult thing to live for
so we could feel keenly alive.
When they call it self-preservation
we think about staying the same.
And then we call it a loss,
shedding the things that only
weigh us down. But to live
is to not drown, and at some point
we realize we are surrounded
by water. We get high on breathing
because the perilous tide outside
us is made of the same stuff
as the part liquid our spirits are.
We forget that we are souls
that have bodies. Our intimacy
with gravity and falling belies
how majestically we can rise
without denouncing the ground.

Tricks of Transcendence

Towards that beauty
we sail, half-mast
in dignified mourning
for the safe shore we
turned our backs on,
on freedom that comes in waves
and an innate promise that
sometimes lies about distances
and tastes like saltwater.

Somewhere, a part of us knew
that the days we were burning
would be the past of a life
that was coming. A time merely
to look back on, and love,
the way we understood it then,
would glimmer like beads of dew
in the wide open daylight of
what the future that arrived
revealed to us about ourselves.
That the stories we repeated,
raw and unresolved, over smoke
and expensive noise, would
later be just one of many filters
to a vision, and we would be
watching this world with
our hearts pulled in a direction
for reasons we cannot enunciate.

We still believe in what was
promised us back in the days
when there was no past
to lament, no stubborn mistakes
that stick to our perceptions
like paint on silk. We ask all
these illuminated questions
not because the answers
would redeem us, although
they do, but because all things
are bound to one another
and it’s how we get reminded
that we speak the language
of the universe that we are
certain is listening.

And towards that point
where the light gathers,
we faithfully make our way,
stumbling, the way untrained
faith sometimes stumbles,
taking it upon ourselves
to chase a bliss that someone
once told us we were worthy of,
that we would never have
believed otherwise, if it were
something we merely wanted
instead of a prophecy waiting
to be claimed.

Salt and Aquamarine

And there you were,
the blue hour draped around you
like a shawl and all your
motivations a little disheveled.
The benign hush that
assumes the shapes of
what could have been overcome
blames nothing,
not even circumstance.
Some epiphanies are like
sea glass: broken
from a forgotten whole,
lost in rarely charted waters,
and with edges worn off by waves
that arch like the wings of fate.
It’s hard to tell from looking at you
where you really started.
You are part shipwreck
and part sunken treasure,
foggy and turquoise
and mystifying.
No one thinks less of a jewel for
forgoing a little clarity
for a few nights at sea,
for coming in to possession
of a thousand questions.
They make a pretty pattern,
hanging from your neck like amulets
and bringing out the depth
of passion in your eyes.
Nobody ever told you,
and they couldn’t even if they knew,
the birth you gave was going
to require a daily reimagining
of your own needs.
Every night a different sky.
It’s something you realize for yourself
when you find that the sun
rises on your right shoulder
while your love prefers
to weep on your left.
And the shawl of blue hour
fades into a night that hides you,
hides your rough places
without questioning.
It is kind to you because it
recognizes the way you gaze
at love: as if you expect to drown
and are giving it instructions
to collect your pieces
along the shore.