by Matthew Phillips

Half-awake, scratching red mosquito bites on the inside
of my left ankle, swelling with aching water thoughts
while dawn chases fang-like cold from incisor mountains—
I feel like a bird-fish in his estuary dream; you fin from river
to a pacific surf where ocean predators wait: the leopard shark
or hammerhead (mythic as a prophet). My dormant mind
groans awake, waterways glare beneath sunlight—my nerves
awash in salt. Through a slit of darkness, a surfer paddles
into a red tide; he’s clean-cut, but missing an older brother
he lost seven years prior, sacrifice to a nation’s war. Sea blues
in the whitewash, grief folded under riptides—how to groove
along ocean curvature, waves of glass? Sex wax on the belly—
how to lose a brother for an hour each day? Goofy-footed
in the surf is the last way, or a long night beside sand-crushing
thunder—coastal malaise tumbles on shore, taps like mussels
against cool round inlet stones, a damp minefield in the tide.

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