mother ocean, father island
mother ocean, father island
Okay. You never think of this until it's too late.
You wade into the surf and dig your toes into the thick sand and feel its layers pulled away and close your eyes and then there's a swallowing and burying and a constant pulling away and you're being yanked to the side and your knees buckle and then you’re sucked out into a giant stumble, flinging out an arm to catch you and you try to put your foot out there but it’s stuck in place and quicksand is going through your head, but this is not what you pictured, not a drowning, though that is what quicksand will do to you, drown you in lungs full of grit, or else just burst them, bottomed out in the weight of a millennium’s erosion, maybe the quickest thing stone can ever do, and you are falling now, trying to catch yourself in waist deep water where you can't really catch yourself before the waters do and you are not afraid, not scared, dumbfounded maybe, shocked, but you will make it and the sand eating at your calves now won't let you be pulled over, pulls you down but not out and fights the pull from the side and then stands you up, knocking at you and maybe you have never really felt so pulled before, and finally all there is to do is to laugh and you do. You laugh. And the pulling stops. Not down or away or up, just stops and you can stand there and laugh and then Billy comes over and says, you sure are short where'd you go, and says, remember to keep moving that's a thing I told you to remember, and you remember but never knew what it was he was talking about and now you do, Jamie, now you do.
In the twilight, sun hard on your shoulders, the last heat bouncing off the churning surf, throwing braided line with pyramid sinkers and shrimp-pink beads beyond the shallow breakers, hooks heavy with old pigperch backs, your back into the throw, your arms into the set, wrists into the rolling of the reel, a nibble, a tug, a hard wham and the heavy fiberglass rod jumps from you like legs snapped up standing hard in buried sand being pulled everywhichways and you rear back against the pull, stinging darts of sand in the wind in your shoulders, the line racing away, throwing rooster tails of salt spray off the S-loop guides, and there is a moment, one final moment, when the sun hisses behind you, behind the bay horizon, behind that the whole of the earth, you see it all from here, flashes a golden wink against the blue, now indigo, edge of humanity, and you forget the line, the bait, the hook, the day, the dusk, the night, and just hang in that moment, and only a slamming run brings you back. A hundred hard runs, leans, dips, cranks, leaves the thing abandoned at your feet.
All I know is that you hollered at me. I heard something in your voice I didn’t hear when you were stuck in the sand with Billy and, when I run to see, you have not come any closer, to it, or him, or me, or anything. I am proud of you, I say in different words. I dream of bringing up a big mako or blacktip spinner but all I ever hook are them lousy bonnetheads, and here you are. We see your knees buckling in your mind, not knowing you stood in shallow surf with 200-pound sharks. And you won't even come look now, though it's mostly dead, you killed it, fighting it hard against its breath, against it's need to head deep. Oh Jamie where do you think they come from, encyclopedias and National Geographics? Were you thinking this ocean was not the ocean of morays and killer whales and maybe even Jonah and his big white sperm-headed whale, the one we all cry out for lonely nights when we don't understand how big mammal fish swallow up whole humanities and ideas and confuse us with giggles and snickers in this big old world full of incongruity? Jamie are you afraid now when you were not afraid then, stuck sandbound in the craw of the big mother ocean, mother feeding everything, us too, every single second of every hour of her lifetime, been living far longer than we can count? Is that it Jamie? Been fishing for something we all don't know what it is out here in the one place we can all claim as our own, Father Island lying next to Mother Ocean. Can't anybody know what it is we need to know. Maybe better not to know it in a place too big for the knowing of it anyway. Maybe better not to know anything at all. Maybe. Maybe better if we don't know that. Could be we don't need to know what it is we don't need to know.
Published online in The Map of Austin Poetry, March 2003
Susan Ellis, Paris: "Tony Gallucci's "Mother Ocean, Father Island" has left me exhausted. I'll have to come back and read the rest [of the issue] when I've caught my breath. This is such a wonderful example of why we debate - Is this prose or is this poetry? The long dense lines carried me along and included me in the struggle. For me it was very definitely poetry."
Ross Clark, Brisbane: "Stazja, a good read . . . I enjoyed particularly . . . Tony Gallucci's "Mother Ocean, Father Island": now THAT's a prosepoem with tidal flow. I wish you all the Pacific. "