the wreck and not the story of the wreck
-Adrienne Rich

I had no guide
No fable
To warn me
No mask
No boat
In one moment
I dreamt

The next
Mute, staring &
In the ocean
The masses
Each bubble
A story
On the jet stream &
I was one

Maybe without
A breath

A mouth
I had no mask
I always wore
A mask
My beard
A mask
My strut
A mask
My masks an anchor
I surfaced
I went down
With a mask

In the ocean
Each story
Inside me
A chorus
This pain
A current
This power
My eyes
Forgive me, finally
My eyes

I stepped out
Saw their sorrow
My sorrow
A cloud
I breathed in
Emptied myself
As the first rain

  • The epigraph comes from Adrienne Rich's Diving into the Wreck.
  • Poets & readers often (understandably) assume that the speaker in a poem is the poet themself. In cases when that's not true, it complicates the writing of the poem—ethically, what should I reveal about a story that's not mine? And when the poem deals with trauma, should I write the poem at all?
  • Somewhere in this poem is a story that's often ignored or discarded, but desperately needs to be told. Maybe it holds back too much in favor of valuing my relationship with the subjects, but when there's tension between human lives & art, I'll always choose people.