“Always Here” by Ben Schutz

I have flown here to hear the waves
lap stones, those unstolen, those still home
in our Great Lake’s blues, those that like us
tumble over, under each other becoming
smooth. I have not flown here to hear seagulls
swindle tourists out of food, but they do.

They complain, confused, these flippin’
skippin’ death trap stones, they weren’t told
our impossible stones conspire against them
against their perfect day, against their wobbling
legs leading unwillingly to water where
it turns out, oh, cold and impossible water

Sold its soul to those stones so together
the superpower to stub and freeze toes goes
unmatched. Exasperated, plopping bottoms
down on impossibility they wince for
to sit on our stones is not nearly as pristine
as they were told. Little do they know, as a child

I learned to run on these rocks. I learned
anticipation of irregularity as my fellow mermaids
and I grew empowered by the icy shock
of learning to dive. Now each year the beach
creeps closer and closer to the waves. Shameless
daytrippers build cairns, flirt with illusion

Of possession. They are the possessed, empty
and clueless. What can they do at this trick
of a beach? Photograph, caption us and hope
locals look away while they dismantle paradise
one stolen stone at a time? We don’t.
We are always here disproving the illusion
of being lost in time. We are not.

We have come here to hear the waves. We have come
thousands or fractions of miles to uphold and expand
the mythology of our harbor. To touch buoys,
drip dry, read Whitman, read tabloids and rejoice in
the bellyflops of youth. If you don’t believe in myths,
how do you explain the giant unicorn

I’m floating on? If you don’t, why are you here?
Our home is not a riddle, our beach no labyrinth.
We do not hurry, though you must be warned
our mythology scurries with beloved spiders
over your naked torsos, swirls in smoke
of grilled sausage and saturates our watercolor

Warpaint with undecodable explosions of meaning.
We carry mythology in our pockets, our snack-laden
beach bags, where you carry stolen glory. Don’t
be surprised when our guardian goddesses
call you out for your predictable selfishness.
Beware, we have hexed our limestone talismans

Against the likes of you, and who are you
to doubt the power of a floating unicorn?

—–

Ben Schutz grew up on an island in Lake Michigan and is an English teacher and poet residing in Debrecen, Hungary.