luis sinco
Returning with the Grays
by Jonathan Yungkans

they used to hunt whales
from here       row longboats
offshore as gray whales
migrated even the cliff
seems a beached leviathan
fossilized but crumbling

the Pacific reclaiming its
own       the stone-strewn
beach on which I teeter
turns ironic in my shoes
since off-balance brought
me here not to topple but

shift       the tectonic push
which governs this land
pulls       blackness clings
to me like congealed oil
toward it       the pitch
night leaves only sound

barely breath as a damp
chill leeches past bones
taps into the rip currents
lurking beneath silence’s
cliff edge       tide pools
despair’s crash in waves

which I can only ride till
the surf breaks and I turn
a stone smoothed by tide’s
constant caress into which
I settle       know like the
whales I had to return here

SOURCE: A much earlier version of this poem appeared in Snowglobe.

PHOTO: “Whale watching season, Palos Verdes Peninsula” by Luis Sinco, L.A. Times (Dec. 2012).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Partly from growing up nearby, partly from my mother having a business acquaintance in the area, I gravitated early toward the Palos Verdes Peninsula [Southern California] and drove to it whenever I could. Portuguese Bend, where this poem takes place, remains a strong draw, especially when I need its quiet and the ocean to lend me something approaching peace of mind.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jonathan Yungkans is a Los-Angeles-based poet, writer, and photographer. Growing up in Gardena, California, not far from the Pacific Ocean and at the time still predominantly Japanese-American, left him with three things—an intense love for the sea, a deep appreciation for cultures other than his own, and the outlook (and resulting questions) of an outsider aware that he didn’t quite fit into his surroundings. Subsequent years as an ESL [English as Second Language] teacher and a publications editor for a multi-cultural Christian ministry only added to the latter two of these. His works have appeared in Poet Lore, Poetry/LA, Twisted Vine Literary Journal, and other publications.