The Fat Man in the Surf
The tiny cove of crenellated rock
subdued the Pacific waves and formed
a private, palmed ocean space.
We drank black coffee with yellow cream
on the wooden galley deck,
ate shrimp ceviche for breakfast and
watched the fat man in the surf.
He poled himself, crane-like,
raising hairy knees
into water sloshing at his waist.
His sandals and shirt and
you and I
as three dark clouds smoked and glittered
in the water at his ankles.
rearranged his face and remembered
a child curious to discover
punishable, hidden truths
in alarm clock mechanics
or the taste of his mother’s soap.
He looked past his dark-tipped breasts,
hairy chest and belly folded hirsute
over fluttering nylon trunks
into the wave shimmering
at his feet. Head down,
hairy hands stretched
he ignored me, you,
his sandals on a rock
the woman calling him
from the foaming edge of ocean
and marked off his patience
in six slow steps
across the sandy bottom
before he bent to sweep the surf,
netting nothing but his own fingers
face-up, pale, empty, and apologetic.
It made me wonder about his job, his life,
who he was at nine thirty last Tuesday morning,
what blue or white collar, what sensible shoes and belt
measured his life and forgot the searcher
we watched today in the waves.
It circled me back
to my avocado-rust childhood,
to a subdivision of single family shoeboxes
squatting in the desert.
My parents and my sister and I
shuffled along hot
white stone lined paths
admired this floor plan,
that master suite,
and the koi pond,
and stayed that night for free.
At dawn I returned to the pond
with my complimentary plastic cup,
stooped to the slick smooth algaed edge,
squatted froglike in the lee of a scrubby brush
and scooped the film off the water’s edge for hours
until I caught the fish.
It was silver-white, small and ugly
but it was mine.
I pictured it swimming in a clean bowl at my bedside
mouth opening and closing
as if to say something so important
that I bent now to the cup,
my face pointed over its edge
ready to hear a bubble blip to the surface
with a word from God.
But instead we heard the angered scream
of the owner’s son,
doubtless told too many times
Stay Away From The Fishpond.
Despite our flight to the anonymous room,
they found us and separated us, fish;
forced me to pour you back into your slimy hole
in the desert floor.
I caught you, Fat Man, with your
heron stance and hairy starfish hands
combing the sea to catch a child’s dream.
I caught you here
in your quest for silver-scaled wonder
and I will not release you.