Tracks in the Surf

Can you read this? Most days, my words look more like tracks of a sandpiper skittering along the edge of the sea. But I see them clearly now—o blessed words! There’s so much I want to say before they leave me again and I must go back to that inarticulate cell, as memories play out like silent movies, and I must watch them speechless. Moving in and out on the stage, strange people arrive, imploring me to do things, uttering sounds and looking at me as if I’m supposed to understand them. They start off smiling, but then begin to frown. Their voices grow louder, and I can feel their frustration slowly rise in an angry wave. Why can’t you understand me? Don’t you remember? Sometimes they yell at me, and all I can do is babble. But I must hurry. The words are fleeting, and I must write while I can. So if you’re still here, please share this with that lady with the luminous face. She’s here every morning. When she smiles, she fills my every dark corner, and her words play softly on my soul. Sometimes she opens a book, and points to the tracks on the page as she speaks. And each night before I go to sleep, she sings to me a sad song that reminds of what I do not know. Please, tell her that I ….

First published in Tipton Poetry Journal Fall 2022

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8 thoughts on “Tracks in the Surf”

  1. Very emotional piece of prose. I hear a lot of poetry inside this piece which with some work might be drawn out to a briefer, more condensed form–in essence, a poem. What do you think?

    1. Thank you for your comment. Though I can see from your opening statement that you are a skeptic when it comes to prose poetry, you asked me what I think so I’ll try to reply as best as I can. First of all, no, I do not think this piece of mine needs more work to make it a poem when it is already just that. Mostly I do write in free verse and occasionally formal verse, but I felt this particular poem worked best as a prose poem – that strange hybrid form poised between poetry and prose. I too was once skeptical of this form and decided to immerse myself into all that I could read on the subject. One of the best books on the subject is the collection “Great American Prose Poems From Poe to the Present,” edited by David Lehman, who you may recognize as the editor of “The Best American Poetry” series. There you will find not only an extensive collection of prose poems written by well known poets usually associated with verse poems, but also one of the best long descriptions of what exactly prose poetry is. I particularly like the quote by Charles Simic, whose book of prose poems “The World Doesn’t End” won the Pulitzer in 1991: “The prose poem has the unusual distinction of being regarded with suspicion not only by the usual haters of poetry, but also by many poets themselves.” I also recommend the collection “The Penguin Book of the Prose Poem From Baudelaire to Anne Carson.” I mention these only in case you are interested. I doubt if any of this will convince you, as I have had similar discussions with fellow poets that just seemed to go round and round like passionate theological debates. Thanks for reading my poem and responding. Cheers and Happy New Year.

  2. Thanks for this lovely prose poem, Gene. Your words took me to that place and that person.

  3. Gene – I, too, loved your Tracks in the Surf. How lovely to be allowed to share a few moments in your poetic mind. Thank you for your writing.

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