Shinkawa’s Problem

I wonder if he loved the ocean
even more that day the tsunami
swept his cottage from the soil
then miles out, a wave with arms
like a victor’s raking back
the chips. So many afternoons
the Pacific’s realness had been kept
from him. Offshore winds obliterated
effervescence, stole its tang. Kelpy
musk ignored his open windows,
and the fog, too, quarantined to its violet
cities on the horizon among which suddenly
he squatted on roof-shingles, days of pondering
destruction he couldn’t see, though what
had wrought it was all around and nowhere,
hit-and-run guardian angel,
fled before he could thank it for leaving
him alive, curse it for killing
his wife. He’d gone back to get
belongings, found himself rescued,
appropriated by the cold, voyeuristic
current that exploits every miracle.

Ralph Sneeden has work forthcoming in The American Poetry Review, and other poems have appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, POETRY, The New Republic, Slate, The Southern Review, TriQuarterly, and many other magazines. The title poem of his first book, Evidence of the Journey (Harmon Blunt, 2007), received the Friends of Literature Prize from POETRY Magazine/Poetry Foundation. He was the Chubb/LifeAmerica Fellow at the MacDowell Colony and the Bergeron Fellow at the American School in London. He was born in Burbank and teaches English and directs the George Bennett Writer-in-Residence Fellowship at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire.
*Photo courtesy of Kasper Nybo.
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