Walowitz (beach)
Beware: Dangerous Riptides
by Alan Walowitz

Beware: Dangerous Riptides, the sign warned,
but there was the lovely Alice in her two-piece,
charging out against churning surf and good sense
and finally away from her gaggle of pals, arriving
way beyond where the rollers formed into pile drivers
to create, I suppose, those riptides. But what did I care?
I would get her alone beyond all the crashing
and tell her something to make her laugh,
always my only hope. And as the pull of ocean carried me out
way beyond where a swimmer like me had any right to be,
and her strong crawl and athletic form brought her easily back to shore,
I could have sworn I heard her laugh as she passed
and say between strokes: Careful out there, kiddo,
no lifeguard today. Alice of my Daunted Dreams,
I would die in the drink and never see her again—
but she’d talked to me, though, for all I knew,
she didn’t know my name.

                                                            Fire Island, 1970

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: At the Beach. Some time in the 1980s. Too calm to be Fire Island.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I started to think about this poem soon after the event happened — my visit to Fire Island as a camp counselor — in 1970. But to write this version of it, I didn’t bother to look at those old drafts. They hadn’t been working anyhow, otherwise they would have turned into a poem already. It was great to start again; this time I didn’t feel as if I had to be too wedded to the “facts.” As if those should ever matter to a poet.   Now there were no more camp kids I was supposed to be watching closely from the shore. Now it was only the lovely Alice and me, just the way I might have dreamed it.

Alan Walowitz facebook photo

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alan Walowitz has been published various places on the web and off. He’s a Contributing Editor at Verse-Virtual, an Online Community Journal of Poetry, and teaches at Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York, and St. John’s University in Queens, New York. Alan’s chapbook, Exactly Like Love, is available from Osedax Press.