A man decides to live adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean
in the crater of tragedy/loss
by way of an ancient predator.
He builds a saltwater pool by hand behind his home
and connects it to the open waves with a channel about 8 feet deep.
He fills it with buckets of chum/he stirs the chum in with the largest garden rake
he could ever find while also saving big money at Menards
and he tries new recipes every Wednesday
/some Fridays depending on the temperatures of the week.
Sometimes he chums and swims because movement and meat
might be the difference in arranging a meeting with someone special.
The water is painfully anonymous
/muddied by blood.When he swims,
he thinks of being turned inside-out.
What a strange thing to welcome/
what a routine to make your own.
And it continues for months.
TV made it seem like it wouldn’t take so long.
He hadn’t thought of what it would mean to chum
every day and swim
every day for again and again and again (fuck).
The employees at the convenience store down the street
grew familiar with him/
grew folktales about his life in a backyard imagination.
He buys two boxes of Q-tips every week to keep
remains from his canals/he fills a shopping cart
with eucalyptus-scented hand sanitizer
about once a month.
On every third Monday he walks in
at nine-thirty in the morning
to buy ten toothbrushes/
ten boxes of dental floss/
and every bottle of purple mouthwash in the aisle.
His focus was like eating after a really long time
of not eating. He refused to give
way. The dead fish gave him rash
and infected him a couple layers outside the spirit/
a few layers beneath the skin
like in the back of the knee
like in the webbing between the fingers.
He questioned himself once
(but only once) in the third week of a
bad month. The swell tossed bottles into the pool
and he sat at the edge of the water submerged to the space
just above the shins and thought about soda from a plastic/
thought of someone so sweet.
The things that rot your teeth out
you cannot give to yourself.
A sandpaper glance across the sole of his right foot
snaps him back.
He dives into the water punching up
and also out/
and also down.
And touches nothing.
He decides then and there
to never think that hard again/
to never make wishes that can see
what he is.
But the next day has yield.
He watches the fin slide into his channel
from where it met the sea.
He wonders what it’s like to be
both cold-blooded and curious.
He stands the tallest he ever has before.
And he holds his breath without trying
and he slows his electrical signaling
down to static
as the shape approaches the side
of the pool that runs parallel
to the back wall of his home.
It is huge (that’s what she said)
he laughs to himself
even as what is notoriously
absent has found a way to
a note to that bottle-shaped someone
claimed by tragedy/loss
and an ancient predator.
It’s one part apology, one part defiant assertion
of the law of equivalent exchange.
The fin glides through
the space just beneath the shins
and he dives
guided by his fists/
hoping to taste as sweet as dessert/
excited to see her again.