Identity & Community (There is no “I” in “Sea”)

I don’t want to be surrounded by people. Or even one person. But I don’t want to always be alone. 

The answer is to become my own pet, hungry for plenty in a plentiful place. 

There is no true solitude, only only. 

At seaside, I have that familiar sense of being left out, too far to glean the secret: how go in?

What an inhuman surface the sea has, always open.

I’m too afraid to go in. I give no yes.

Full of shame, but refuse to litter ever. I pick myself up.

Wind has power. Sun has power. What is power’s source?

                       *                                   *                                  *

There’s no privacy outside. We’ve invaded it. 

There is no life outside empire.  All paradise is performance for people who pay. 

Perhaps I’m an invader and feel I haven’t paid. 

What a waste, to have lost everything in mind.

                       *                                   *                                  *

Watching three mom-like women try to go in, I’m green—I want to join them.  

But they are not my women.  I join them, apologizing. 

They splash away from me—they’re their pod. People are alien. 

I’m an unknown story, erasing myself with seawater. 

There goes my honey and fog, my shoulders and legs.

                       *                                   *                                  *

What could be queerer than this queer tug-lust for what already is, who already am, but other of it?

Happens? That kind of desire anymore? 

Oh I am that queer thing pulling and greener than the blue sea. I’m new with envy. 

Beauty washing over itself. No reflection. No claim. Nothing to see. 

If there’s anything bluer than the ocean it’s its greenness. It’s its turquoise blood, mixing me.

                       *                                   *                                  *

I was a woman alone in the sea. 

Don’t tell anybody, I tell myself.

Don’t try to remember this. Don’t document it.  

Remember: write down to not-document it.

From The Octopus Museum (Knopf 2019) by Brenda Shaughnessy. Copyright © 2019 by Brenda Shaughnessy. Used with the permission of the poet.