Michael Olsen

Gods in the Surf

I envy my American city friends
their impractical swimsuits made
to be seen not touched by sea
unable to stand in weak Florida surf
I was born by the ocean an island child
the core of me salt water and seagulls howling
we wade into the Gulf the ocean holds us
amniotic fluid shot with jumping mullets
jellyfish constellations too small to see
worming their stinging tendrils into skin
my friends shriek as if they should pee
on the tiny wounds water warmer than air
we call it bathtub play like children
waves spitting shark eggs and tangles of seaweed
pelicans strafe the water we gorge on chips
chug shitty beer under a rainbow umbrella
my city friends tell stories innocent childhood
beach trips Florida vacations coconut sunscreen
back home people saw gods in the surf
watery limbs and hair made of dirty foam
fishermen went out to sea came back
nets full of prawns to bombed out homes
children tried to hide in the sand evading
military planes only to shatter on land mines
I never saw visions in the waves but I knew
a boat with no motor and no lights could take
me across a lagoon at night and if I heard
a helicopter I should sink my body into
the ocean and trust it to hold me

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