‘Stay Well Back … Or Risk Certain Death’: Giant Waves Slam California Coast

In a bar on West 65th and Detroit, I am thinking again about Alaskan wood

frogs. How they freeze with the elements, when temperatures drop, to survive.

The lime the bartender touched. Forced into the clear neck of the glass bottle

I drink from floats in the golden craft like a lily. I think to myself: all of this

could be a poem. Everyone in this bar is starry-eyed. Arctic ice, the Columbia

Glacier, all the coastlines. The dissonance here is funny. No punchline needed.

A man walks into the bar without a gun but with a woman. The danger still

imminent. Swimming beneath the surface of intent. They embrace in a behavior

of embracing I’ve witnessed lions perform before falling into maned bodies

of the wild. We are connected in our affections. We love. Traverse the heart

without clear direction. Without real protocol. Even outside the trigger’s scope.

In this way we make ourselves vulnerable and call said vulnerability bravery.

Up close but far away the night, which is felt most at night, is unreal. A thing

I cannot reach but know is there. All my life I have been invisible. Been waiting

to be called a home. To recognize the song of earth – the branch the brook

the streaming the snapping – without having ever to discern the sound. The Great

Barrier Reef, black bodies, the Giant Ibis. Tonight, to be the poem written

in the back of a book at a time when the poet would rather be held by someone

he fiercely loves is the goal. We are all amateurs of plot. Like many others leading

up to this week, this week America is drowning. An epic poem about the body

aching all the time. About not wanting to die. About wanting to live forever

comes on and no one is singing along. No one knows the words to disillusion-

ment. It is 39º tonight. And raining. The government is shutting down tomorrow.

There are child refugees dying of dehydration while $3 million dollars are crowd

surfed in support of a wall along the southern border of this doleful place. Kiribati

will soon be no longer. 50-foot waves taunt California’s coast. At this rate, we

cannot save the Maldives. Everything is disappearing slowly before our eyes.

What would it mean to be the poem and not the poet? In what way would I be saved

from all of this? I am trying to see what it takes to withstand the elements

of survival. To convert glycogen into glucose is the body’s greatest invention.

I am learning to sit within an image. To survive cold winters. To be the first

thing moving, as the ice around me thaws, with sound escaping my throat.


Jason Harris is a poet, Watering Hole Fellow, and NEOMFA
candidate. His work has appeared in Wildness Journal, Winter Tangerine, Foundry Journal, The Bind, and others. He is the Co-Editor-in-Chief of BARNHOUSE
Journal
.