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[Poetry] Five poems by Tracy Engle

Disassociation, Sunset

glass beach, fort bragg, ca

I stand in this moment as if it is

a shallow pool among rocks, and I am

watching waves rush from horizon.

How so much movement is stillness, how

so much sound becomes peace -

that overbearing roar between marine

layers and cold sand...

I have forgotten

I am here at all, and as ocean crashes

against scarred rocks, I too am marred

by seafoam and wind.

There is a certain coming-together

that happens here, the way beach glass

sparkles as the sun burns away

gray sky, and the water churns,

relentless, and eventually it all begins

to feel like breathing, like being

alive with the sun’s reflection stretching

further and further toward me

like a hand in comfort.

Destiny Manifest

Go West, they said, carry your weary

bones across wind-ravaged plains

and treacherous heights, and rest, finally,

at the edge of the world : observe

the abyss of ocean as it kisses

the abyss of sky / what greater

love have you witnessed? This is earth

dancing in space with the moon,

the almost angry song of waves, the frantic

cries of birds. Your hands are full of sand

or rock or sea glass, and you are holding

your soul, gritty and resilient, polished

in time. Pour it through your fingers. Watch

the sun become water and fire until your eyes

burn, and you mistake roiling fog for a shroud. /

On the cliff above, trees loom into shadow. They have

withstood fire, and were meant to; their seeds grow

best when burned. You are more driftwood than

rooted tree : you will linger here but not stay.

Go West, they told you, and you did, reaching

volatile water and salt and cold and more

questions than answers. The roar of waves

reminds you of breathing.


some places speak your name

better than people do: they know

your secret name, the one you hide

from strange folk and carry

in the beat of your heart. not even

you know your name – it looks

like the places that call to you,

like little waterfalls and meandering

streams and trees gnarled with age;

you hear your name whispered

in the dry grasses on warm nights,

and you know it’s your name -

of course it’s your name, you are

listening with your soul. those places

remember your name even after you

have forgotten it again, and they

call you to them until you ache


On Edge

I stand on a cliff:

California fog billows

up from the ocean, bringing

salt and hints of life -

diffused cries of gulls

and fog horns with no

origin. I bathe in white

noise, soul motionless,

hair fluttering. I am

afraid of heights. In this

moment, I am a ghost,

like the sky, like the ocean.

I see nothing but my hands

grasping at clouds. Intangible.

Somewhere below me,

a passenger ship calls out

in short bursts, just as afraid

of sinking as I am.

Summer Skin

Dragons come to California

in summer, all hot winds

and fires, smoke hiding

mountains on the horizon.

I wear my summer skin

like armor, shining. I lose

myself in reflections, reminding

memories of girls laughing

at girls for being less

than perfect: I will not be

afraid to sweat. Magazines

don’t understand my beauty.

I am prettier with age, but vain

(women are always vain

when they say those things

men want to say for them).

I say I have become something

I cannot call a self – expanding

like flames in a meadow,

burning until the land is charred.

I will rise from my own ashes

a sequoia, until I burn again,

and I take comfort in knowing

that even smoke casts a shadow.

Tracy Engle is a sort of migratory bird, fluttering between the West Coast and the Midwest for most of her life. She is recovering from a number of chronic illnesses, particularly Lyme Disease and lingering Covid symptoms. Tracy has degrees in English and History with an emphasis in Creative Writing. She has amassed a collection of very unimpressive day jobs, but her passions include writing, photography, and providing unsolicited environmental activism at parties.


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