“On the edges of our dreams was the sea, | which the moon walked across with soft footsteps.” ~ Spencer Reece, from “Gilgamesh”

Ruskin Spear The Wave, Gorran Haven 1960s
“The Wave, Gorran Haven” (1960s)
by Ruskin Spear

And our shadows floated away beneath us towards sunset and darkened the backs of birds, and blackened the sea whose breath smelled slightly of fish, of almonds, and of rotting fruit. A blizzard of coastal aromas had come to collect our attention, and we drifted through all it tried to impart, not knowing where we were going. And soon the air was soiled with dust and iris-colored clouds. […] And the rush of water was suddenly loud as if a flood were loosed upon the ballroom floor. I seemed to be dancing alone into the absence of all that I knew and was bound by, the sight of the sea coming close, the spread of solvency, the smear, the blurred erasure of differences, the end of self, the end of whatever surrounds the self. All that I saw was a vast celebration of transparence, a clear dream of nothing. And I kept on going. The breakers flashed and fell under the moon’s vacant gaze; scattered petals of foam shone briefly, then sank in the sand. It was cold, and I found myself suddenly back with the others. The sea, that vast ungraspable body, that huge and meaningless empire of water, was left on its own. […]  I cannot remember, but I think you were there, whoever you were.

~ Mark Strand, from “The Delirium Waltz”


After the photograph Manatee Drive 02 by Isabelle Hayeur, 2011

No one who
has ever seen

a body of water
has not imagined

drowning. Surface
divides my eye

and my breath
holds me.

The underskin
of the canal

grows light
that dangles

down, tickling
the cement throat.

I figure we are
mostly helpless

against water
because we

are mostly water.
When I go under

I count:
1 Berryman;

2 Berryman; …
If you dream

of drowning,
you wake up

under an ocean
of air. There are

so many stupid
sayings I confuse

them all. I know
what to never

bring to a gun fight
but what should

I never bring
to a drowning?

Not even bombs
intimidate water.

One motivational
saying goes:

If you don’t give up,
you win.
 But I’m

pretty sure that’s not
how it works

or as Kafka said:
The meaning

of life is that it
will end. The water

both buoys
and buries us.

To prepare yourself
for your near-life

experience: dip
your open eyeball

into a bowl of cold
water. There is

always tension
on the horizon.

I will be the one
wearing rust

and erosion.
Algae may one day

rise up against us,
but until then

please allow me
to oxidize in peace.

Usually the last
thing we ever do

is gasp.

~ Matt Rasmussen


Music by Sleeping at Last, “Watermark”