long island

The Imaginary Ocean
by Thomas O’Connell

It sure seemed like an ocean at the time. Families in station wagons circled the parking lot searching for an open slot. The sand scorched their feet while dragging aluminum chairs to a place near the water, even though they would have to move as the tide came in. Crabs walked sideways in the shallow water. Kites spun in breezes, breaking their strings and drifting away to wherever it is kites drift to. We swore we saw sleek dorsal fins of sharks cruising stiffly out near the scattered motorboats. Good looking high school students reclined on lifeguard chairs, while the ugly ones handed out popsicles at the food stand by the playground. Gulls scavenged near beach towels for dropped Sandwiches. Men pulled in flounders and stripers standing on the dark rocks at the end of the jetty. We would watch the water moving towards us. We could not see beyond it, though on clear days we had to admit that we could make out a strip of land rising on the horizon that we knew to be Long Island. Lying in bed at night, after a day of swimming at the beach, we could still feel the waves rocking us, as only an ocean can.

SOURCE: Originally published in Badlands, 2015.

PHOTO: Vintage postcard, Long Island, New York.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This prose-poem came about through remembering the phantom waves that I would feel after a long day at the beach as a child, thinking about what a strange sensation that was and how the briny-ness of my blood could pick up, and adopt, those rhythms. Once I started to reflect on those memories, other “phantoms” came back as well, filling in the rest of the piece.

fun copy 2A

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Thomas O’Connell is a librarian living on the banks of the Hudson River in Beacon, New York, where he happens to be the 2015-2016 poet laureate. His poetry and short fiction have appeared in Elm Leaves Journal, Caketrain, Jellyfish Review, Otoliths, and The Los Angeles Review, as well as other print and online journals.

AUTHOR PHOTO: Anticipating “fun” in York Beach, Maine, August 2015.