"The Land of Totuaba" is an excerpt from my memoir of an unusual childhood with a father who blew up rockets for a living and in a port town in southern California. The manuscript, Rocket Lessons, is still in my trunk, waiting to become my second prose book. My then-agent advised me to hang onto it and simply write my first book! The ways of the publishing industry are unfathomable to outsiders.
Here's a poem from Rocket Lessons that my agent made me take out of the memoir, which then found its way into my new book Gods of Water and Air, which has a whole San Pedro section.
Our New Neighbor
A knobbed mob of water, the Pacific rang
my doorbell in the night and ran.
When I got up, she let fighting cats stand in
and pranked me with the cannery's whistle.
With a sob and a whoosh, she dangled trinkets
over our back fence and showed me her green silk
underwear. A crazy lady in a frilly robe,
the sea was our new neighbor.
Dockside cranes pulled at her flanks,
hauling up surprises. Automobiles,
fish, furniture and anchors trailing seaweed
sputtered out of her. A constant breeze
chopped her green speech and sudden
surges mangled fishing boats and surfers.
Our crazy neighbor lulled me to slide
into her curls, to roll on soft swells.
Neighborly, she pulled me in-
to her doom bed and closed a cold lid.
Then the father who had thrown me in
fished me out. From that day, the air burned.
When I rode her treeless hills and looked back to land
through her glistening I felt
the family's undertow, that was the sinking
lull and downward sea drag.