Sand Crabs

The ocean pulls up, pulls away, hisses,
leaving tiny air holes in the sand;
I am fourteen, in love with creation,
full of life and dreaming possibilities;

Still on the beach I lie, slim belly
pressed down against earth’s beating heart,
looking not at the tossing sea, the foam
and sand sucking out with the tides;

I am watching instead the minutae
as it dances before my bright brimming eyes
trained on a world underfoot, place familiar
and yet not, Alice’s drink-me bottle
clutched in my imagination;

Out of tiny cavities pop the crabs,
size of my thumbnail, eyes swiveling
on longish stems, scuttling sideways
to a clear and shining surface;

What they are about I will never know,
for in the blink of a moment, back they dart
to the safety of the known and commence,
tiny clawfuls at a time, to toss up overhead
the sand encroaching upon their inner sanctum;

Then once again the sea washes ashore,
sweeping hand over flat hand,
smoothing sand free of footprints
while the crabs, for all I know,
seek retreat in the epicenter
of the earth.

all photos ©2020 Bela Johnson

Flux

I never wanted famous, though it was proffered
more than once; did not want to grow up
in public, recorded on the cortices of admirers,
on film or stage, no; talent may, through its
own merits, ease its way into hearts to pause
or to remain;

In the shadows or in the streaming blue daylight
I have roamed, senses piqued, attentive, bright-
eyed bird or a conger eel poking tentatively
in and out of its rocky burrow, seeking connection,
but then again wanting nothing so much
as to be left solitary, only the rushing sound
of waves overlapping, shards of sunlight slicing
through the columnar clusters of its coral cave;

In the balance it was nature that saved me,
shaking me down, down, until, touching bottom,
I was free to surface or submerge at will, no fear
of falling nor of what lay in the abyss,
no admonitions from trees or stars; skies did
not loom nor threaten, only sheltered, protected
whether blue or grey; in shrill winds or basking
crystalline stillness it was the same endless
continuum of something grace granted to explore,
within or without that strange flux, perpetual
motion drawing me into its rocking loose embrace,
lulling me, as if for the first time,
into contentedness in or out of the depths.

Puget Sound ferry
Mauna Loa pu’u
Kohala taro patch stream
Mauna Kea
Koa forest, Kohala

All photos©Bela Johnson

The Needle and the Damage Done

Songs possess the power to take me
back in time, drop the needle
onto spinning vinyl, crackle and pop
of a generation;

Subjective as memory can be,
the body does not lie and it is this
visceral recall a tune nudges into being,
cruising in that little red Rambler,
elbows out roll-down windows,
heads pumping time to the radio,
cigarettes dangling from youthful lips,
ringed fingers and doll-shiny hair,
metallic twist of lighter extracted and held
lightly to the end, igniting thin paper rolled
around pungent acrid tobacco drawn
into perfect lungs, damage furthest
from our minds in what is
often termed reckless youth;

How feckless we were, body and soul,
squeezing life for all it could offer
and still ravenous for more, Ripple wine
behind reeking dumpster on the eve
of the new year, heedless of anything
close to symbolic, damn the consequences,
steamrolling ahead into Hendrix and Joplin,
her choices supplanting my own
tender folk poets;

Oblivious as her one-armed stepfather
slunk up next to my prostrate form, asleep
on her cream-colored bedroom carpet,
desperate grapple at his own aborted
youth stitched into the present
before war tore heart and limb asunder,
my repulsion far from the feverish response
of his fantasies;

Now her mother, nicotine-stained Cheshire
cat grin slowly spreading, silly man’s minor
mishap, attempt at smoothing over life-
altering insult, guiding him and his tented
pajamas back to marital bed if not bliss;

No apologies on the bacon and egg morning,
coffee and cigarettes, overflowing amber
glass ashtrays obliterating any trace
of semen smell, small miracle as olfactory
far outstrips deep-rooted traces that vaporize
like smoke into the ethers of rolling time.