Riptide

This is a poem I wrote in the first few weeks after our son Benjamin Milo died.

Riptide

I was just swimming,
Enjoying the movement
Of the waves around me.
Ducking under, feeling their push,
Rising again.

Then a wave I didn’t see coming
Pushed me under
And spun me around.
Gasping and reeling,
I take in my new landscape.

I’m much farther out
Than I meant to be.
And try as I might to swim to shore,
I’m only pushed farther and farther
Out to sea.

The waters around me are darker than before.
Currents of grief and pain
Threaten to pull me down.
They drag me yet farther
From feeling the ground beneath my feet.

Everyone says if this happens,
Relax. Don’t fight it.
You’ll exhaust yourself.
Let the current carry you out
So that another can bring you in.
Fighting the current is where the danger lies.

I know this, but everything in me
Screams to move toward shore.
I can see the shore.
Why would I let myself drift even more?
Isn’t the sea also where danger lies?

This life is an ocean of unpredictability.
The only way through it is through it.
With sandbars of joy and icebergs of sorrow
Whose depths are unseen–
I can’t bypass the currents
Laid out for me.

The shore is right there, and on it,
Freedom, justice, joy, peace.
No pain, no sickness, no tears,
And best of all, no death.
I want to be on the shore.

All my instincts demand that I race for the shore.
The shore is where safety lies.
But try as I might,
I’m pushed backward with every stroke,
How can I relax when the shoreline is shrinking?

It’s impossible to listen to logic.
Go farther out to find the way back in?
Terrifying.
Which risk do I take?
Swim for safety and drown?
Or release myself to the deep,
Waiting for the sea and its Maker
To have mercy
And carry me to the shore?

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