Dragged Out, Floating In-between


When you are first pulled out
to that place that fades from sand to cement
it's right after you decide to live out your days
writing in lists rather than sentences:
crab cake sandwich
mad platter for 2
pepsi I
budlight IIII
fries III

You know how to stack plates in one hand,
plastic Pepsi cups in the other.
And how to stay floating after four White Claws.
And how to piss on what stings.
And how to wonder which of the boys that you've been
in math class with since the first grade
will ask to marry you ten years from now.

You know that, when falling into a riptide,
you don't waste time punching and kicking
the salty water.
Simply float farther out,
let it take you
and hope that one day
it will escort you home.


You aren't moving forward.
More so, sideways.

You walk through halls, sit in chairs, wander among the shelves of books, read pages here and there, but still only form fragments, or syllables, or phonemes. And when, eventually, they are sentences, with a capitalized first word and punctuation at the end, you don't quite have a thought. Not a full one. Maybe halves. Or somewhere between 0 and .1 percent. And by the time you are three-quarters of the way through that thought, you are forced to form more words, fragments of words, syllables, phrases, sentences to be printed and handed to another pair of hands with a fountain pen that will fish through your words and cut the bad ones, but not very meticulously, or for very long.

All you remembered learning before the riptide
was what Miss Molly said:
"You may not get along with them now,
but there's only so many of us here,
and one day you may end up marrying one of them."


In high school they tell you you could work at the ferry docks,
or on a charter boat, or just stay a damn waitress,
as if they didn't expect you to know these options.

You're hungry,
but not quite sure for what.
You only have blue-lined paper
to chew through,
its chemicals melting on your tongue.
You are drifting, starved,
your nomadic words
struggling to organize themselves
into something that is an answer.
You want to drown, but you don't know
if it will be worth the five minutes of physical exhaustion.


You find a friend out in the riptide
with brown eyes darker than your mother's,
darker than the black sand on the ocean floor.
The ends of his wet eyelashes glimmer.
Does he come from that unimaginable place past the horizon?
He teaches you to swim, guiding your hands through the water,
and you realize it feels better than moving through air.
He pulls your head onto his chest when you are tired
and you let your muscles relax
without feeling like they are sinking.


You decide to exist between
the shore and the horizon.
You write somewhere between lists and sentences.
Sometimes, there are small boats here
filled with boys of sun-bleached hair
double-fisting Bud Lights.
Maybe they are the ones you were supposed to marry.
Anyway, there are also kayaks and books
in these little waves.
And you. And your thoughts.
Full, large, bright like the butterfly
you saw once and wondered how it made its way out here.

In the moments when your muscles burn,
and your body roars,
your loved ones
paddle out here
to meet you
in the middle.