The Indian ocean

Is this the Indian Ocean? With sharks as pale as the flesh they rend? With penal islands slung so low the convicts get their feet wet while marching to the mess hall? Sunsets torn by pink winds blowing from Antarctica? Typhoons with the maws of prehistoric whales? You dare me to wade in it, let the little nibble-fish nibble my toes. You claim the salt’s so buoyant that even my flimsy stroke would keep me aloft for miles. The air tastes of lost civilizations. Not lost, exactly, but too evolved to recognize themselves or each other. Think of all the ships the British sailed across this languid waste. Is it wasted? Not at all, the coral brimming with architectonic lust, the gaudy little fish finning along at speed. I kneel at the rim of the tide and scoop a handful. It looks like a slop of melted gemstones. It burns the tip of my tongue. No one can evade its essence, not even you in a swimsuit flimsy as a snapdragon. I trace a pattern in the wet sand. A little maze in which I can lose myself while the sea beats to windward. Meanwhile you threaten me in dull colors some mistake for lust.

William Doreski has published three critical studies and several collections of poetry. His work has appeared in various journals. He has taught writing and literature at Emerson, Goddard, Boston University, and Keene State College. His new poetry collection is Black River, A Dark Fall.