Each day, first in the early afternoon
and then again at midnight
dave-the-character (not ‘me’; rather the creature
whose body ‘I’ presume to inhabit)
walks down from its tiny, lovely room
to the Kaua’i ocean shore,
dressed only in shorts and sandals
(the air temperature here, even at night, is
so very near its body temperature,
there seems no boundary between them).
It sits on the ancient, ever-changing beach
and watches the sunlit — or moonlit — ocean waves,
cascading over each other in the distance,
a constant roar, rippling,
finally, gently onto the sand.
‘I’ have all kinds of possible reasons
for such a strange
and seemingly reflexive ritual:
perhaps it is only here,
in this safe, warm place
that dave-the-character feels it can commune,
connect — can at least try
without distraction or discomfort
to be at one with everything;
or perhaps it is waiting for something —
a sign, an encounter, or a letting go,
or a celestial event, or the dis-covering
of an answer to some unknown question.
‘I’ cannot know; as long as ‘I’ have felt
that ‘I’ resided in dave-the-character’s body,
‘I’ have been trying to understand why
it does what it does, and does not do
what it does not;
and still ‘I’ do not understand.
For a long time ‘I’ thought its decisions
were ‘mine’, but ‘I’ was mistaken:
‘I’ merely rationalized what it did,
hurriedly, as being ‘my’ decision.
But ‘I’ can no longer do so:
dave-the-character, this ever-stranger creature,
this apparent bag of water
filled with many other even-stranger creatures,
clearly does not listen to ‘me’,
so what is the point
in trying to justify its actions as ‘mine’?
So sometimes ‘I’ try to just watch it,
‘impersonally’ (as if that were possible;
it drags ‘me’ everywhere it goes!),
and to just let it, as Mary Oliver said, be
the soft animal body that loves what it loves.
And sometimes ‘I’ see that
this ever-stranger creature
does not need ‘me’ — in fact is oblivious to ‘me’ —
and try to see it just for what it is,
and is not.
It is not whole, apart, or singular —
that much is clear. Its skin does not separate it
It does not conceive itself
to be separate, to have an identity —
all of that is ‘my’ projection, ‘my’ arrogation,
‘my’ hopeful, desperate,
foolish wishing for its ‘success’.
It has no need to conceive of anything,
it is too busy, it seems, perceiving
on behalf of the vast consilience
of billions of creatures that comprise it
and evolved it for, one must guess,
their collective thriving.
But that isn’t right either —
it is this consilience, this complicity of multitudes
in their collective, hard-earned, ancient wisdom
that perceive — not dave-the-character;
unless ‘I’ concede that dave-the-character is
this dazzling complicity.
In which case maybe ‘I’ should talk of
dave-the-characters, as if this creature
were a plurality.
Or ‘I’ could just call it the ever-stranger,
as that is all ‘I’ know it, for sure, to be.
‘I’, the interloper, seem to have access to,
to be party to, the thoughts and feelings
that arise in this ever-stranger,
but while it is wise enough just to acknowledge them,
and use them, or not, as it has learned
over a million years to do,
‘I’, who see everything as meaning-full
insist on taking ownership
of all these thoughts and feelings,
claiming them, reacting to them, and then
analyzing them to fucking death,
though they are only suggestions,
interesting patterns of tea leaves
in the bottom of a cup.
So now, in the moonlight,
as a pineapple rain falls,
‘I’ watch the ever-stranger (almost as if
it were a jellyfish, a creature
that is stranger still),
clamber again down to the beach,
a mug of tea clenched in its tentacle.
It is scanning the shallow water with binoculars;
it sits and waits. Apparently,
inexplicably, that is what it must do, now.
‘I’ am impatient — what is it looking for?
But as usual, we aren’t talking.
And then, and then
(at least if time were real it would be “then”)
there is a ripple in the water, and slowly,
a green turtle crawls its way up onto the beach,
and sits, as its ancestors have done
for four hundred million years,
placidly, attentively, in the sand
only a ten-jellyfish distance from
The wind shifts, the rain picks up
and then dies away.
The moonlight and the surf
lightly brush across the turtle
who nibbles on a piece of jellyfish,
as the ever-stranger sits, quietly,
raising the mug of tea to its horned beak.