Insomnia at the Beach
The moon reflects the sun white
but the rocks reflect the moon black.
They are missing the point
or else are they being themselves?
This is why I am here, lowered carefully
by muscle memory
to slick stones’ peaks barely
above a seething sea.
I love the froth, the product
of innocent rage, that gathers at the edges
of the stones like a conflicted team.
I love how small I am, how obvious
the truth of my powerlessness is
and how here, away from home,
those things are safe. My home on Sunset Hill,
is small, too, but so I feel large there, like the Olympics
beyond Bainbridge Island I can see from the balcony
that only has room to stand; like I cannot hide,
like I’ve stolen the place of the cement-gray sky;
the ocean, the teamworking spume,
the dark that shows all the crevices
of rare but stubborn light. I hold my breath a lot.
This soggy city shines like a kid with a fever.
I want to be the smallness of who I am,
though it’s dangerous, because it is the truth.
In a powerful kingdom where most of the power
comes from never knowing about it, truth is safe.
A few waves of Puget Sound shove my stone throne
so hard I think it might move, topple me
into the icy sheen. The light would break
apart for only a moment, but not like the flicker
of failed electricity my home, sometimes
my brain, undergo. Looking at water
only makes you thirsty if you need
to be full to be free. I look out to that deep
dark and when I look back, I see the ocean
come to its knees on the shore and the shore
bow to the trees, which are timbering right back,
like they all have probably always done.
I stay until well after you can see the sun’s breath in their shadows,
catch mine and face the hill holding up my home.
For my day off, I’ll have surgery.
A transposition from old wounds into new ones.
What history’s all about. I know so much about
Poland’s war years, how my grandmother and her brothers
never fought with each other, what they had
to eat for every meal, even if it was burnt or
undercooked. I cannot name my daughter’s
The surgery. Where they incise both belly and back
to insert the rods to brace the spine, keep it
from slumping ever further, from crushing my lung.
(Have I not put it off long enough, like cleaning the fridge?)
There’s one sure way to kick a habit:
over and over again. But the war that was
exercise and stretching didn’t slow the stenosis,
the narrowing of the nerve trenches around my spine.
Those with the blades might tell you that love and judgment
are oil on water but, as we sit for our last dinner before the operation –
my daughter hates cabbage and steak and using a knife –
it seems like one is the face on the coin of the other.
Megan Wildhood is a freelance and creative writer in Seattle, WA. Her work, which centers social justice, marginalized voices, and hope for healing, has appeared, among other publications, in The Atlantic, The Sun, and America Magazine. Long Division, her first book, was released by Finishing Line Press in September 2017 and she’s currently working on a novel. You can learn more at meganwildhood.com.