Two Poems by Joe Linker


Ray, 1956

He feared drowning. He fell asleep on the bus,
sleeping past his stop, and on down to Redondo Beach,
the waves breaking, hard on hearing.

He slept past the beach break at El Porto,
his head bouncing against the beach-side window,
his tools jiggling in his toolbox at his feet,
past the Manhattan Beach Pier,
the Hermosa Biltmore Hotel,
the Hermosa pier, on down to Redondo.

The bus driver would have to speak up.
The evening water was glassing off,
the Strand bars filling with surfers,
their cream yellow and orange and blue surfboards standing
against cars, walls, wet, dirty sand waxed.

He dreamed of fish, bottled beer, oysters.
He dreamed of broiled eel,
of yellowtail garnished with scallops,
dreams he did not understand.

A giant squid rose from a thick gelled water
and reached up for him, and he quick stroked
in his sleep on the bus to dog paddle away,
back to Shively, the house near the railroad tracks,
where he’d built out the basement room in knotty pine.

He awoke on the bus in Redondo Beach,
at the end of the line, foggy out now,
the sound of the surf muffled
in his ears. Flying fish eggs
surrounded his tired and dozed head,
his hair closely cropped,
his clothes dirty from the day’s work.
He’d returned the car, a ’56 Plymouth,
and salt filled his ears.


Watermarks from a Night Spring

Embers of a partially burned ocean
In a box in a dank basement molting notes
A weathered surfer slowly descends the creaking

Worn stairs, dark swells yawning
Fish eyed and barnacle knuckled he climbs
Finds and opens the box, peers in, smells the pages

Runs salted fingers over the raised words
Rusting paper clips, chiseled letters in Courier font
Fading beached seagulls washing away in an incoming tide

Wired spiraled journaled waves
Bleaching across the page ink in water
Blistering sun burnt tattoos on old shivered skin

He can no longer read without bottled glasses
He chuckles, the tide receding washing scouring
White out rocks across words stuck buried in red tide pools

Breathing with a snorkel
The surfer leers over the smoldering sea
Takes up the seaweed soiled waxed manuscript

And paddles out of the basement
Walks down to the beach and what remains
Of the water and casts out the paper fish net

Into a set of scaling waves
Lit with a lustrous industrial moon
The waves curling letters in blue neon.

Poems originally published at The Coming of the Toads | Creative Commons License

About the Author:

Joe Linker is a writer and poet from California.