FNS: The Sensei of Venice Beach by Lois Roma-Deeley

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Every Friday night we feature a short story, essay, personal narrative, poem, spoken word, or short film for your enjoyment.

Tonight’s poem is from Lois Roma-Deeley


My sister repeats the rituals you have given me,
then writes them down, one by one,
making a long and careful list in a small notebook—

the yellow paper bright and certain as the noon day sun.
The words on your tongue, a map leading away
from all we have ever known. Now on the boardwalk we pass

the two-story mural of a spreading elm tree, the roots
sinking deep into a bouquet of bleeding hearts. We walk
in silence to the water’s edge, waiting

for your lecture to start again. Yet before you speak
all I can think of is how the lines on your face
form a parenthesis around each eye. The wheels of time

now it’s my sister who begins by asking… do they circle
but it’s me who knows the answer…
all         that       is       unpredictable      and      cruel?

You reply by anchoring both feet in wet sand,
lick a finger, feel the wind, then smile.
Just then the whitecaps crest, then break over the shore,

like wild horses galloping toward a better life.
And now the only voice I hear
is my own returning to us from the sea.

As you turn around,
an outline of sky frames your head and long blond hair.
Billowing in the breeze

your gauzy shirt exhales
like a sail on a tall ship setting out on high tide,
taking anxious travelers into difficult waters.

You point a finger toward heaven, then kneel down,
addressing the curious sandpiper sitting in front of us,
his black eyes darting from side to side: Who knows

you demand, where the rainfall finds the stream flow?
Next you interrogate the gray-backed tern
who is bringing her young some fish. And which one

you ask, drops into the river? You turn away again,
speaking now into the mist
rolling along the shore: And which rivers give up

and disappear into the sea? Years later,
after I learn how to follow my own breath,
make my eyes soft, fall within

the graceful arms of unknowing darkness,
you will be still here…
a sad man dressed in the sad shirt, barefoot and alone,

walking on the strand and talking
into the wind and at small birds
who won’t ever fly away.


Lois Roma-Deeley is the author of three collections of poetry: Rules of Hunger (2004), northSight (2006) and High Notes (2010)—a Paterson Poetry Prize Finalist. Her poems have been featured in numerous literary journals and anthologies such as Villanelles (Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets), Spillway, Bellingham Review, Artful Dodge and many more. She is a recipient of an Arizona Commission on the Arts 2016 Artist Research & Development Grant. http://www.loisroma-deeley.com/

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