by Tania Pryputniewicz
Down the cragged, nettled incline
past two crosses for the drowned,
our children scale pocked rocks.
I’m at forty-nine seconds: scanning
kelp threaded waves for the black thumb
of your hood, remembering Fiji:
swimming hand in hand, the time-slowed
undulations of sea cucumbers, pale tan,
rolling their octagonal lanterns
across the miniature ribs of the sand.
But this is the cold Pacific, an overcast day,
zero visibility according to the pair
of retreating divers you pass in the surf.
Our son straddles a feeder stream, flings
strands of algae and one unlucky
minnow into his sister’s hair. You
surface. I breathe. Then lose
you again, like I do daily to the needs
of them: the youngest cries up, our
son’s lost a shoe, our daughter begs
to bring her dead minnow home.
I just want you, hurtling crown first
towards the silver lid of the sea
you must open to live, kicking in,
the three rust-red half-helmets
of abalone suctioned to your chest.
AUTHOR’S IMAGE CAPTION: Drawing of Kolmer’s Gulch by the late artist Mike Trask (father of the best man at our wedding). I paid for this drawing using the first dollars I’d ever earned from a poem.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this poem back when we lived in Northern California just after coming home from one of my husband’s ritual trips to dive for abalone at Kolmer’s Gulch near Fort Ross in 2007. Before we had our children, I accompanied him several times out into the sea. It was far more difficult to stand on the shore and wait for him to surface than it was risking the unruly jade swell and brisk water temperatures to shadow him through the kelp and down to the sea floor.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tania Pryputniewicz, author of November Butterfly (Saddle Road Press, 2014), is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Tania’s poems are forthcoming in Chiron Review, Nimrod International Journal, Prime Number Magazine, and Whale Road Review. She teaches a monthly themed poetry workshop at San Diego Writers, Ink and lives in Coronado, California. Her online home is taniapryputniewicz.com.
AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: The photo is of my youngest son, Nikolas and me in our wetsuits overlooking the sea.