The Mothering Ocean

Out here in the tide-pool rush

I twist my thoughts into sea-caves

where emotions hide, trying

to pry them loose, poke them

into open air where

cormorants, hawks, sea stars, otters

might attack, pry, gnaw to the bone

leaving only dead shell.


Breakers twist fingers of foam,

smelling of sardine.

They are my desires.

They lull me, lure me

with songs of uterine bloodswell

singing me to the safety

of a cormorant’s cry, of my daughter’s exalted cry

as hands pulled her

from her first ocean

and now I see these emotions

clustered like gooseneck barnacles,

gray grapes ready for the plate,


and I know what I’m feeling,

have felt this half year now —

watching my mother growing old,

limping on her plastic knee among her roses —

is fear as ragged as these waves

torn by clusters of tor,

that she may die before I know her

as I should, love her as I must.


by Paul Totah

March 31, 2000

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