Dabbling in the surf with an baby-sized insta-friend
A wave too small to boogie board
Sand in my eyes and nose.
Salt broth duking it out with oxygen
Battling for trachea space.
I can’t find up or down.
Insta-friend gurgles and gasps.
Death, as it applies to me, is a brand new thought.
I’m only three.
But here He looms, instantaneous, implacable, incredible.
Mom’s at home, Dad’s surfing, I’m still wave-tossed and
Who finds my body?
I see my spot in the van ride home
(perched on the engine cover between the front seats)
Empty. But even without me chirping all the way home, Dad still won’t have
Time to figure out how to tell Mom about my tiny, sodden, limp
I find up, manage a gasp, open my eyes.
I see Death reaching down for me, a silhouette of terror.
He lifts me out of the water, one-handed.
In the other paw, Insta-friend dangles by the scruff next to a
Surfboard Death clenches with his armpit.
Death isn’t death.
He plops us on the sand, shifting the board and grinning.
He walks away.
No new rules, no warnings, no questions about our folks.
He handed me back my life, and now
My life is in my hands.
Scrabbling the coastal boulders and tidepools
Racing across jumping tip to craggy dip
Across chasms large enough to
Snap a femur or
Lose a body
I fly where adults won’t walk
To child-sized worlds in
Each with waves and light
Denizens feeding and sleeping
Living and dying
Our differences are just a matter of
Body-surfing every week for years,
A nearby seal joins us each time.
She may think we are retarded seals who
Need looking after.
Decades in this water on this beach
Decades on the mat
The water is high
But I know how,
When a wave is too big to ride, to
Dive deep and lay flat on the sand
Waiting for the wave to pass over.
I know this challenge, I’m practiced, I’m good
(Better than many), I’m safe.
I stroke up a rising wave, ready to
Slide in just past the crest and
Flip into the joyride.
Cresting, I freeze and miss the wave.
The next in the set
One of those odd waves with a double amplitude is
I gulp air, diving down into the sand
Seawater tugs me deeper in that
Retrograde way waves wander
And though I’m pressed like a flounder, this wave doesn’t
Want to leave a safe zone, so she
Seizes my feet and curls herself into shore.
With the weight of the water, I’m pinned.
She lifts my legs into her curl, squashes my chest.
My back folds inexorably.
My heels touch the back of my head.
I can feel the bones in my spine
Opening on the ventral side and
Dorsally grinding, reaching fracture pressure.
The wave passes.
I crawl to shore, grateful the punishment for
Hubris was just a warning.
The ocean gives everything.
The ocean takes everything away.