Ocean Script


The way its seeming omnipresent gestures

hone to the corrugations of scallop shells,

sand dollars and sea glass, leaves me

deciphering the infinite one grain at a time.


So I step back.  Watch sandpipers leap into flight,

skimming the wave that drives them from the beach.

Along the shore, in the cool wind of astonishment,

I’m stirred like the ocean after a night of storms.


Because its meaning is interpretive,

in the slow-growing sunlight, the gray water

slides into green.  Gradually, I see

what seems like a miracle trying to happen.


Each moment tucks under the folds

of each wave as if it could gather

and contain all the necessary beauty

of a lifetime, carry it whole and onward.


In the instant of that funnel, before the breaker

closes, there is a remembrance of flowers,

a trumpet of morning glories in which my hope

is all eyes coiled in its collapse, following it


up the strand, ending in a string of seaweed

at the feet of gulls. The wonder of how they live

on the ocean’s scrolls by pecking at its perishing secret.

At the tideline, mussel shells glisten dark, tumble and flash.


Their nacreous insides, like bits of moonlight,

and all I wait for.  Their black hollows clack and settle,

accumulating like fragments of night under me.

When I turn, I walk off into remnants of stars.





As the rain begins,

there is a moment when the tenth drop

strikes the window.  But I’m not counting.


Every shower I’ve ever experienced

has had this moment,

the one I might have been waiting for,


smuggled in the multitude.


Each snowstorm I’ve ever seen

has dropped its third to last snowflake

and I didn’t notice.


Perhaps it was too far off

circling over a neighbor’s yard,

settling onto the pitched roof of an empty birdfeeder.


Or maybe it was the one that melted on my glasses,

beaded into a secondary lens

magnifying the light, bending it toward a secret


the way a camera filter divorces the image

from the world and its edges,

from the sharp specifics of something like a splinter

that can tear a shirt sleeve or catch an eye.



Trying to Read on the Bus


The engine rasps, almost as hard as the man snoring in the seat behind me.


Potholes shock the cabin, cause lights to flicker,

and letters on the page to scatter like synchronized gnats.


The woman beside me wiggles every few minutes, and apologizes.

I have to say, “No worries,” losing the thread

of the poem I had gripped between potholes,

and hoped to track home.


Not the poem on the page, but the one

behind it, its words so luminous they rewrite

the history of betrayals into song and light, so charged

with redemption, I turn and look across the distances

to you, beside me, jostled and lost

in a darkness I reach across to say,

“Hey, you have to hear this.”


Before you can say “no,” I recite those words

disrupting all the cellphones and iPods,

the road smoothes over, and all the ears on the bus

open into silence and a depth of hearing

so profound, everyone falls in,

and each of the private destinations

we call “home”

coil into a single point,

and we all arrive there





About the poet: 

Michael Young’s fourth collection, The Beautiful Moment of Being Lost, was published by Poets Wear Prada.  His chapbook, Living in the Counterpoint, received the 2014 Jean Pedrick Award from the New England Poetry Club.  He received a Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and the Chaffin Poetry Award.  His work has appeared in numerous journals including Edison Literary Review, The Louisville Review, Off the Coast, The Potomac Review, and The Raintown Review.