Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2022  Vol.21  No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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As children we used to coast down the slope
of the empty lot on the hill,

take the final bump, and fly over
a puddle so steep and wide we called it
an ocean.
All the way downhill
we were shrill with a wild delight
only tomboys understood.

What got me going was that easing

down the initial incline, then suddenly
going down so fast I couldn’t stop.

Control was out of the question.

The hill had gravity and a power
that took my breath away—

much as the sea, the actual ocean,

confronts me as I walk the coastline now,
lifting my eyes from wrack and wreckage,
plastics, condoms, cartons,
twisted tubing.

I look away from the tide pools and dunes, away
from the salt marsh,
and put myself out there,
at sea

centuries ago, at sea and approaching
an untrammeled coastline.

What must that have felt like!

Landfall, at last! And then everything,
everything after crossing that sand and stone margin,

unknown. To give oneself over
to the unknown entirely, whatever it takes—
surely there’s no courage like that.

Lengthening my gaze, I study the faint horizon line,
as if it might make a mark on the sky
that indicates
sea level,

as if it might tell me what we’re in for as the oceans
swell and seep closer,
flushing us out of the familiar.

What does full erasure feel like? What remains

when the coast tucks into the sea
and cities go under?

I’m not brave enough to coast down
that slope of thought.
Even as a kid,

I knew I might be fronting disaster full tilt—
that once over the lip of the slope,

there just was no stopping it.  

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