Poetry: Michael Graber


The Eighth Ocean

Even though you sit on a couch
in a bungalow, your toes dance

like dolphins. You feel the tide
before you see the first wave

greet you with the effortless
grace of nature’s ceremony.

You gaze into a life that goes
somewhere, into an ocean

behind her eyes. Water fills
the room, tastes like tears

or birth. You should swim
away, panic, do anything,

but you relax, float in a lull.
You can breath here, you can

see. You sense mercy. You dive
beyond the map’s legend,

past everything you know,
into something more familiar.


Think of it like the bonfire parties
every American high schooler knows,
a masquerade the law may shut down
any minute. A spot to dance, fight,
deafen the nagging voices of inhibition
with pure grain punch, and try out
lovers like puzzle pieces. The only
differences: no big trucks with handy
hitches to get you unstuck, no cheerleaders
or captains basking in the celebrity
of their small circles, and the only
tough who wants to bruise and spill blood
is your heart’s own longing. Hand in hand,
we walk into the fire. I lead a pace,
look back. Your arms form a cradle.
We gaze into each other, then through
the other into the engulfing flames.
Our clothes catch fire. I cannot
catch my breath. Your yells sound
like a neighbor’s squabble, mysterious
screams muffled by closed doors.
We entered holding hands. Numb,
we feel nothing now. We will never know
if our finger bones stay entwined
in the ash heap or if we withdrew
into ourselves. Where is the old map
home? Did it burn, too? Are you home
or delicious exile? Why can I still hear?
Why do I still sense you throughout?
From fresh to cooked to cinder,
love burns the unnecessary dross
revealing the essential questions
only experience can answer.

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