His jaw swallowed six buses of children,
his eyes watching them from beneath
peel themselves from the leather seats,
no seatbelts, just early summer heat.
He shook them down like terrible
pills, these inner city youth who
had never seen the ocean, each leaning
their heads over the edge of the old pier.
My dad said, no ocean until I’m grown,
but he told me stories about the pier, about
the creatures hanging out in the deep, how
he swam each day with a giant spear, waiting
for one of those sea bullies to open its mouth.
He remembered the salty air like a death fog.
He said men died to build this pier, the sons
of men who died to form this city,
those men the sons of the sailors
who landed on that shore before our family
began. He also told me how he met my mom
at the ice cream stand at the end of
the pier, how they walked the length
of it, before sneaking off into the sandy
shadows to create me next to the jellyfish
that washed up on the shore each night.
These kids were looking for the daytime
jellyfish, dolphins jumping like happy alive kids,
flounders with their eyes all sideways,
until monster-mouth came up, the teachers screaming,
we didn’t teach them about you for a reason.
It was as if the children were candles atop some cake
for an old guy, 146 of them in all, blown out in a single
breath. The last story my father told was about these kids
before he went for his daily swim, only his giant spear
washing ashore. Each day since, I dive from the end
of the pier, starting deeper than my father, going further
over the edge than those kids, searching for the jellyfish
that saw my conception, looking for the shark that
swallowed the children, hoping something hidden
under all that blue will let me stab it for opening
its big mouth.
Tyler Gobble is currently studying at Ball State University. Tyler is an intern at The Collagist and will soon be joining the staff of The Broken Plate. His poems or reviews have been published by or are forthcoming from Otoliths, Breadcrumbs Scab, Mad Swirl, among other places.