Size / / /

Traveling alone on these vacant ledges,
I find inroads and bridges not shown
on the map.  
The tugging waves of the dun Pacific
remind me never to stand still,
never turn my back on the real
or unreal.

A mind's surface is like this frothy heave of saltwater
surging toward shore,
beholden to the pullback of tides,
arrhythmic and capable of anything.

I don't look into other eyes, not here.

At evening, a path appears, curling cliffward,
slanting through bunch grass and ice plant,
winding through stunted trees
and the fragrance of rotting crabflesh.  
There are ghost elk in the shadows.
Underneath the surf
pounds a deeper sound,
a heartbeat that disrupts my own pulse:
the quickening of a slow behemoth
about to rise.  

Near the rocks, I kneel
to find a plover nest
crafted out of pebbles and bones.  
The wind scatters broken eggshells.

Tidepools catch fire at sunset,
churning with flotsam and plastic shards,
starfish hands opening beneath the oily surface.
At the waterline, a twisted braid of kelp
writhes toward me across the sand.
A mermaid's beached corpse reanimated,
closer now. Closer, like nightfall.

In the dark, the dunes creep into the camp,
dragging cypress roots, dead jellyfish
and tangled knots of fishing line. The men
shout drunkenly, their long knives strapped
to their thighs, their faces shifting
in firelight. I hear shuffling footsteps
and voices crying out nonsense.

The ocean's guttural roar
tricks me into sleep, but
predawn silence stirs me awake,
and I slip into a third realm.
The color of time now is uncolor,
made of sliding shadows and hesitation.
I float down the road like a wraith,
like woodsmoke over wet earth.
I stumble through trembling branches
reaching out to caress my shoulders.
Night beasts scurry away,
reappear prowling by my side and
twining around my ankles.   

To be lost, to loosen the net
and slip below, might be a way
to escape. The trail follows
the faultline, traces the chasm,
and down there, too,
I could travail alone,
scavenging flotsam from every
shipwrecked dream.

At sunrise, this place unhands me,
strands me at the foaming edge
and leaves me to consider
how morning light reveals
the shapes of seastacks lurking offshore
and how the subconscious, like the sea,
alive with more creatures
unknown than known,
drowns in its own topography.




Carrie Naughton is a freelance bookkeeper who writes speculative fiction, environmental essays, book reviews, and poetry. Her work can be read at Luna Station Quarterly, WordsDance, Star*Line, and NonBinary Review. Find her at carrienaughton.com—where she blogs frequently about whatever captures her interest.
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