On the Searoad
by J. C. Runolfson
He walks the searoad,
though he knows better,
stops and watches the waves move
Soon the tide will lap at his boots,
skirl among the stones.
He doesn’t want to be lonely.
Touching the sea is touching family,
but if he keeps tempting them like this
they’ll touch back.
He stays off the decks now, land-locked
He doesn’t want to die.
The stillness of the ground makes him sick.
He walks the searoad, the shifting sand,
feels his feet sink in the cemetery.
He doesn’t want to die, but
the living look right past him
and he doesn’t want to be lonely.
The tide laps at his boots
and there are hands among the foam,
a bloodless face under white-blond hair,
eyes to match his own.
He bends down to the mouth that forms
Brother, in the language of the undertow.
Touching family is touching the sea,
and he doesn’t want to die,
but he can’t live dry.
Still he calls for help, the only ones to hear him the dead.
They rise up from their graves within sound of the waves,
crowd the searoad like mist,
pluck at his coat and hair, pluck at the foam.
The foam plucks back, hand over hand like climbing rigging,
all the sailors the sea has claimed come to greet
their mothers, lovers, brothers, kin.
Their voices roar across the cemetery, across the sand,
across the searoad where twins reflect
death by drowning, water and stone.
Brother echoes in his ears, the language of the undertow.
The waves are crashing hard across him,
soaking him to the bone, but he feels he can breathe.
He doesn’t want to be lonely and
one by one the ghosts slip away,
under the water with their sailors and graves.
The tide is at his waist, his twin holds him fast
hands in the foam, bloodless face, white-blond hair,
eyes like a building wave.
He ducks under the water and opens his mouth.
He doesn’t want to die, but he feels he can breathe,
and there is no stillness to make him sick,
no one to look right past him.
In his twin is his reflection,
clear underwater, strong as the undertow.
He doesn’t want to be lonely, and
touching the sea is touching family.
J. C. Runolfson’s work has appeared in Goblin Fruit, Mythic Delirium, and Strange Horizons, among others. She recently guest co-edited an issue of Stone Telling with fellow poet, Shweta Narayan. At the whim of the US Navy, she’s currently acquainting herself with the waters of the Gulf Coast of Florida.
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