It wasn’t the sharks
I lost myself, drowning in waves of sunshine and fear.
During stormy weather and when it was clear, I dove
underwater to stay out of sight—that is, until sharks came
that one lonely night. They struck at my legs and I knew
I couldn’t walk. They struck at my throat and I wouldn’t talk.
They drank from my blood and pissed in my beer, but it
wasn’t the sharks that I came to fear while drowning
in waves of sunshine and fear. It isn’t the sharks that I fear.
The sun burnt my skin, so I dove in: the waves drove
the fear into my heart; the deep left me gasping
where there wasn’t any air; the sand tumbled round
me like I was some rock. But I was not a boulder,
nor some small stone—I was just a bit of flotsam
floating alone. Sailors didn’t notice me. Fish
couldn’t see. Then the rhythm of the waves,
blues of sea, captured me that fateful day.
The winds began to blow, you’ve heard it
before, how water rose into a horrible roar,
how the pounding surf shattered the shore,
how cliffs shifted out of the way, and more, all
disappeared into the abyss, all on that hateful day—
the day I dove down and the sharks were not there,
the day I dove down faced demons in a mirror,
the day I dove down and lava began to flow—
—from the mouth of a poet, from a singer’s body,
lava does not flow. The cracks in the crust opened
below the floor of the sea when the waves rose
and I decided to stop singing, to write no more
words when that fateful day tore into my soul
and showed me what I feared, that monster
knocking on the door. It wasn’t the sharks
that I feared, that wasn’t my plight. I feared
the bite of my own teeth into the flesh
of the sea— the sea that tossed me
from continent to continent, the sea
that lost me when I couldn’t get it,
the sea that taunted me to play
in the surf, to linger awhile, while
its riptide did its worst—that I would
tear it apart and have no more excuse.
It wasn’t the sharks that I feared, or the sea
crashing around. I found that I was afraid
without excuses I would be saved from myself
and would succeed at last in being, just being,
if only for a day. That’s what I learned that particular
way, being stuck in the water, drowning in the sand,
finding my way back where there once had been
land. It wasn’t the sea or the sharks, it was just me.