you have practiced
to climb the ladder
until your feet are too sore
to make the rungs.
You walked in bare feet
to condition yourself to pain,
the feeling of loss if you miss,
your rock face the last memory,
your last friend. You balance
on the board, toes curled, pointed
in pain, as if they were not attached
and could easily snap off.
A statue, you stand a god
among the heavens, answering
the courage inside you.
Looking down is never an option,
just a reminder of the time
your friends coerced you to climb
the open-top water tower,
shimmying across the plank
and back again until halfway
across you stopped
to look down. You dare not tap
into this today, this lack of
inside you. Instead you stand
with courage, back tight
as bowstrings, hands tucked
at you, almost pushing you off
the precipice. You leap in faith,
springboard off, the tendrils
in your thighs aching,
leg muscles forcing you
through the wind
Out here you are the recognizable
silent wind, the hollow air you chase
into the water, drawing you closer.
Slowly, you tuck your head to touch
your feet, bending at a peculiar angle,
a circle of sorts, rolling you
on the breeze now tucked inside you,
touching your perfectly shaved chest,
the hairless back. The air follows you
down, beating your skin constantly,
your body cutting like a whip.
You roll again and unwind
into a straightened spring
out into the air wet with mist,
wet with the waves lapping
at the rock beside you.
You open your eyes to the rock face,
brown uneven worn stone, worn
with the torrent weather off the shoreline,
the storm’s upheaval. The waves crash,
the current slaps the stone
to take a piece back into the sea.
The salt laps your tongue, blinks
your eyes shut, your hands
Your fingernails enter the water,
take you deeper, as if back into
the womb. Your knuckles strain
to meet the edge, to meet the waves.
Accepting, you stretch your limbs,
curl your fingers into cups to draw
you to the bottom. You enter the water,
full–chest, abdomen, collarbone–taking
one final gulp of salt air, hearing
the seagulls’ swirl-caw above the waves
until you slide, face full into the depth.
After studying with newly reappointed Rockland County Poet Laureate Dan Masterson in the late 1970’s John has reacquainted himself with the poetic arts after sending his son to college in 2011. He has a 2011 publication in the Steel Toe Review & more recently Stone Highway Review & Emerge Literary Journal in 2013.