On the Searoad

by J. C. Runolfson

He walks the searoad,
though he knows better,
stops and watch­es the waves move
closer.
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
but alive.
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
and he
bends down
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.


2 Responses to "On the Searoad"

  • Yes! Love this poem so much and hap­py it found a great home.

    1 Rose Lemberg said this (September 16, 2011 at 12:51 am)


  • *deli­cious shivers*

    2 Shweta Narayan said this (September 16, 2011 at 1:51 am)