Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Salt Gods

So many of the poems in my new book, Gods of Water and Air, are connected to the sea, beside which I spent my childhood, that I had to reflect the twin elements of wind and water in the title, as essential to my consciousness. This poem from the book was started on Kauai, where I felt the ocean's presence on my body constantly, and daily bowed to its salt gods. 

The Salt Gods

On a necklace of rocks,
sand-colored, she lies in the sun,
not seeing the photographer
who doesn’t aim at her
but at the rocks
that float in the sea.

He snaps and goes.
She slips into the water
to ride sloppy currents
among sea turtles, crawling
beside their slow ballet,
measuring herself against salt gods
in mottled shells.

Afterward, she sits
on the rocks. The breeze
rumples around her. Richly
draped in the sea’s perfume,
she wraps the wind around her hips.

This is what happens
when you dive with gods:
The picture shows no one
but clicking palms frilled
with yellow parrots.           

Friday, September 27, 2013

Growing up with the gods of water and air

I'm glad I included poems and essays in Gods of Water and Air that focus on my 1950s childhood in the southern California fishing town of San Pedro. Decades of life later, I still feel part of an immigrant community, with its self-discipline and traditions reeled in tight as a reel before casting a line to the waters. I learned diversity early: the simple fact of differences in language, skin, hair, eyes, religion, jobs. That diversity fascinated me in classroom, park, neighborhood, ballet studio, and beach. While this country still struggles with the practice of equality, I feel it in my bones and heritage. How we were one in the dark on the beach for the midnight grunion run. How Slavs from different towns firebombed each other's union halls over centuryies-old grudges. How differences can be nothing, depending on your vision and the amount of light. And there's always a lot of light at the edge of the ocean.