Shaman (On the Ocean)

for Jim Scrimgeour

Shaman hadn’t seen the ocean
since the ice age:
Seasick,
in skin canoes
they followed the shore
of the ice sheet,
searching for gods.

Instead of gods
they found waves,
vast foaming treasures
combing endlessly
the empty shores
& splintering glaciers into icebergs.
Those days
seabirds wheeled everywhere.
You could walk forever.

Now Shaman encounters waves
from the stainless steel railing
of a pleasure cruise liner
where s/he is giving workshops
on indigenous Shamanism,
aided by a translator in tight shorts.

The big liner bores through
the rolling waves,
crushing white caps,
cutting into the blue-green beneath
like a rainforest craftsman
cutting jade.
The horizon bends,
into the descending day.
Dance music eventuates from the lounge.
There is laughter.

Next morning,
when the ship docks
at an island port,
Shaman seeks the beach.
The sand is lined with vacationers
lounging in deckchairs,
women naked on towels.
Servers bring trays of drinks.
Shaman orders a margarita in a frosted glass
with a parasol.

Up & down the long shore of the island
the waves arch, a rich blue-green,
infused with foam.
They roll their translucent green-blue cores over,
until they shatter
& go wriggling up the sand,
sliding under themselves—
their movement animated by
an unseen force.
Time after time
the waves threaten to eat the shore
but caress it instead.

Shaman sighs.
Yes.
The waves are still the same ones
careening ashore as
when Shaman searched for gods.

After all these tireless years
they’re the same.

JP Briggs’s publications include Cream City ReviewNorthwest Review, The Iowa Review, Prairie SchoonerParting Gifts, New Novel Review, Confrontation, Sentence, Manifold, Ibis Review, Paragraph, ART TIMES, Drunken Boat, Samsara, Café Irreal. He is the author of the short fiction collection Trickster Tales (Fine Tooth Press) and co-author of Entangled Landscapes (Pudding House Press) and former co-host of The Logic of Poetry Show, WNYC. He has also authored and co-authored several books on chaos, fractals and creativity, including Fire in the Crucible (St. Martin’s), Fractals: The Patterns of Chaos (Simon & Schuster), Turbulent Mirror (HarperCollins) and Metaphor: The Logic of Poetry (Pace). He is the editor of the collection Creativity & Compassion: How They Come Together (Karuna). Previously, he was Managing Editor of New York Quarterly and Senior Editor of Connecticut Review.

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