Ocean

by Terry Ofner
The Waters
Third Place, May 2016
Judged by Joan Colby


I once swam in the Atlantic and the Pacific inside
a week the space between meetings and sales talks
the desolate beach landing of American business
and all I can think of now is that picture

of you on that yacht with your sister
and wonder about the last time I saw
you which I had no idea would be the last
and I remember a time I was maybe

four and you were sick and the men came
and put you on the stretcher with wheels
and you laughed and said “wee” like it was
a ride which it was and you waved at me

with that smile which was part secret
smile for yourself and part smile for me
and you were home again and lived many
long years but I still don’t remember the last

time I saw you you were there and I was there and
I keep seeing you in the ’41 Chevy so sandblasted
it looked white but it was black at heart you thought
you might outlive us but for the aneurysm you might have

probably Chagas disease you picked up in Panama
but nobody knew about that back then and you
went by in your Chevy with that little wave part
of which was for me not the me now but the me

I was as a boy or the isthmus me stuck and I never
did get to live on the ocean always just about as far
away as we could get and you the daughter of a
sailor and me growing up in the midlands

land ocean it’s all ocean and you passed us
in your sleep driving that old ’41 waving
like you would be back soon as if off
to visit your sister who you lost

track of back in ’36 and I think that
is what you did but you never came back
the ocean after all is a lonely place despite
all the commotion and noise which stands

to reason how we make up a life get busy
so as not to dwell too much on those familiar
things that get lost along the way your body
your ocean sister mother so busy

so busy moving in and out in
and out and you leaving in your sleep
in the ’41 thing with wheels
the little laugh that wave


The originality of the device of one long extended run-on sentence hauls the memory of a mother and child in an iconic “’41 Chevy’ to the emotive conclusion “the little laugh that wave.” The writer breaks all the rules about grammar and punctuation and makes it drive the poem. --Joan Colby

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