The Body and the Sea
by Andrew Slattery

Waves can pummel alloy beaches of marrowy shell
and crumpled kelp, can spit blue salt over the beachgrass

and through the orange scrub. Too long away
from the sea and it gets to work on you— calls you

in your sleep. Draws you in. When I sleep the sea licks
my dry skull so I dream of the moon. Rivers

are old snakes that tried to escape the sea, but slowed
and relaxed their hissing, and now the sea runs

over them, rivermouths still open dry to the west.
The daymoon is three-quarter and bumpy

like a bone coin, it squeezes out of yesterday’s navel
with a pop. The daystars file in behind a thumping,

spitting sun, the white sweat drags like a cyst
down my pink neck. A sea is at work on me—

it sucks at your flesh and fills your bones with salt
until your eyes freeze like a bird that flies the seas.

A final turn and the daymoon releases the ropes
that descend and fasten under my ribs that will soon

be coral, and grips them, neither flow nor ebb, but slow
like the dead tide. Feel your skin start to tickle from the teeth

of tiny fish. I can hear the ocean— my ears curl
around themselves like little shells, in the distance a madness

of cotton seagulls are messing up the sky. Over the final rise
the last line of bitumen dust, my feet flare at the carbon sand

hot under the soft blast of a spraywind, the rope loosens
its hold on my chest, I wade in and by now my blood is blue,

at the bottom of the sea— where baitfish nibble at my toes
and the shells listen to themselves.

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