I watched a mother humpback whale and her calf
swim along the shoreline of Thousand Steps Beach.
They breached the surface of the water
three times, maybe, pushing their bodies into the light
of the world above everything they knew.

How beautiful and ancient, I thought.
Ancient, despite their relative newness to the world.
Ancient, like the ragged rock formation I sat upon
as the frigid maritime air whipped across it.
Even the ancients are shaped, I thought.

The mother and child were gone, eventually,
taking that last breath of air before diving
into the blue-black of their world once again.

Your world was the same blue-black for you, now.
There was no sun on the other side of the earth,
and, for now, I hated that old place across the Atlantic
where we met. Funny, the things oceans can change.

I shifted my weight, and a small stone tumbled
from beneath me, bouncing along
before plunging into the water beneath.
I thought of those blue-black worlds I was not a part of.
I thought of you in yours, out of sight. Out of reach.
And, more than anything,
I thought of how many steps you might take
before thinking of me, sitting atop a rock
on the wrong side of a lonely earth.

Dry summer, part two

“Historic West Adams,” the sign read.

I was driving on the 10 East, watching the sunrise through a burnt haze. The fog of lingering smoke from a fire over not-so-distant hills penetrated the horizon. I thought of how I wanted to burn all the letters and cards you had written me; not out of spite, or malice, but because it wouldn’t have felt right to just throw them away, I suppose. I had been putting it off. I told myself it was because I didn’t own a lighter.

A different sign, now. “Historic Filipinotown.”

Historic, I thought.

Yes, that’s what those letters felt like as I read them on the edge of my bed, dropping them one by one—like I was spying on two lovers from an age past, with our same names.


It’s curious, the things I remember about you. I saw a girl in the hallway with your salmon-colored sweatshirt, the off-the-shoulder kind that reminded me of the ’80s. The girl smiled at me as we passed each other. I smiled back. We don’t know each other’s names, but that’s how things are. I remembered your shoulders and how you used to complain about them. Too broad, you would say. But I liked them; I always liked them. I tried to remember your face, smiling at me, but I couldn’t.

All I could remember were your sweaters and your shoulders,
and how you couldn’t stand them.
Sometimes, sweaters will show off your shoulders.
And maybe you liked that, after all.

Arthur’s Seat, with two views

The sun was already setting over a sea
I had never seen before. I stepped between
semi-jagged stones that peppered the summit
until I reached that white stone—dirty, weathered,
and sat next to it, studying the marks
others had left in its sides. It looked nothing
like a throne, I thought, but there it was,
and here I was. I traced my finger
around the top of it—a cold, wide circle.
I let the wind whip across my face as I watched
the burning crimson descend over
opposite shades of earth.

I turned back to look at the grassy field below,
where other travelers had arranged some rocks
in the shape of a heart. “M+H,” said other stones,
right in the middle of the thing.
I paused for a moment, and
looked down at a pair of rough hands.
I hated that even now, in a place so far away,
all I could think of was how there was no “M+H”
for me. Not anymore.

I stepped down from that throne room,
the summit of that place, and descended downward.
I stopped after a moment.
Reaching down, toward this earth
I might never see again, I felt
the cold, stubborn hardness of it
against my fingertips. We were the same, I think,
and that still, fiery blaze of the water echoed
through my mind like it was the last thing
I would ever see.

Under an umbrella, sometime in July

We’ll always have that morning on the River Cam
where we watched a fire burn in the rain.
How I wish we could have seen
how not unlike that fire we would be, and how,
like all things, even the fire on the Olympic torch
before us must go out eventually—
that harsh reality that we refuse to admit,
even as we blind ourselves with blissful moments
that make us forget the promised, smoky darkness
after the flames have been extinguished.
Looking back, even now, I can only recall
how sweet it was to watch that fire, that golden torch,
resisting the elements with its man-made splendor,
carried proudly by a man holding it to the heavens.
That was us, I think. That would be us,
a flickering light punting calmly along,
real, though temporal. But, even still,
we’ll always have that morning on the River Cam
where we watched a fire burn in the rain.

Dry summer

Sometimes, when there are fires,
I think of war and cigarettes.
I think of billowing clouds
of smoke rising to the heavens,
silent, and benevolent.
I wonder how many houses—
filled with old photos, curtains, bed sheets—
have turned into oceans of ash.

Sometimes, when there are fires,
I think of how your house
almost burned down that summer.
The hillside burned obsidian
like the lungs of those not understanding
that, sometimes, there are wars.
Sometimes, there are fires,
and that, always, there will be smoke,
and scorched earth beneath their feet.