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[Poetry] Four Poems by Lawrence Wilson


Beach boys really surf

unlike The Beach Boys

who sing

Rabbit is old and white-

haired he surfs

rents boards to tourists

at Waikiki

he pushes the girls

into their first one

on an eleven-foot waterlogged

soft-top that has buoyed

thousands down the years.

The Waikiki wave is a figure of fun

too beautiful and pointless for some

but outside it's often

worth the paddle

and inside the bikinis form

a beguiling view

receding from Rabbit's eye

the perfect V

and beneath, the ocean bottom.


Every day without a net

they accompany fishermen

working the same waters

Boddhisatvas with thirty-three forms

seeing the reflections of the moon

on the surface of the sea

a broken mirror

when the wind is on it

past the raised train tracks

removing all worldly concerns

monks who keep themselves warm

burning statues of the Buddha

since if the Buddha is within

there’s no reason

not to use them to stoke the fire.

One of the ways to meditate

is to imagine what the wave

will look like: open your eyes

even the common people receive

spiritual enlightenment

in the Zen tradition

the daughter of an abbot listens

she dies just before the father

caring for him in the afterlife

while you may look to be

in seated meditation

you are poised to leap

up on the board

like the blind man

who still carries a lantern.

Pine Trees

The guys go down on the beach

at night with slack-key guitars

after a drink or two at Tahiti Nui

they sing songs of Bobo

with her long gray braids

she's a sober legend now

works at the surf shop in town

but you don't write songs about sober

Bobo at her peak swam ten miles

off the Napali coast naked,

her suit, three joints and a book

of matches sealed airtight

in a container towed behind.

A big wave bodysurfer

she was that rare drunk

who'd swim from Ha'ena

all the way to Hanalei Liquors

for a bottle. Now that's strength

of poor character. On a bender

she couldn't swim

back to the treehouse

at Taylor Camp

and her husband and her girls

but being bad she could take man

after man on the beach

between drinks all night long

a scenario worthy of any number

of songs still sung today.

There's a moon rainbow over

the mountain as the squall passes.

Every time you surf Pine Trees

you surf the Pavilion, the Pier

or paddle out to Middles

sing mahalo nui loa to Bobo

Crow like a cock standing

on the shore

remember that your ancestors

stay around for a year

to help you grieve

then they're gone

get into trouble

and then, like Bobo, get out of it.

The Hanalei break contains

every wave in the world

now and again take the big one

knock a few back

then swim a very long way

down in Hanalei Bay.

The Pier

While you're buying a Chuck Dent cruiser

9 foot 10 of pure slow on a single fin

priced at 225 (he takes two bills)

at the first-Saturday swap in Hanalei

two guys like gods are killing it

a thousand yards off your point

on 15-foot waves

trading between the jet ski

and the strap-in board

just killing it on the hydrofoil

rising above the wave to fly

for God's sake it's Laird

and it's Titus

they're making a flick

whooping it up like Charles Atlas

kicking sand in the face

of the weak and the thin.

Outside at the Bowl

it's still winter

and this U-shaped bay

points straight north to the Aleutians

it's triple overhead for the guys

with big guns and the chops

to paddle 500 yards.

Leave large to the gods

paddle the Chuck out

at the Pier in the small

and the choppy

until some rogue wave

slips in from the Bay

turning to take it

all I do is make it

over the falls

soup above my head.

Walking onto the shore

a girl with a board says

'That was awesome, man'

showing that surviving

with the wrong equipment

is one way to impress the young.

Lawrence Wilson is a newspaper editor and columnist in Southern California. He surfs at San Onofre, Doheny, Bolsa Chica, and the North Shore of Kauai. He studied poetry at UC Berkeley with Ron Loewinsohn, Josephine Miles, Thom Gunn, and Seamus Heaney. Two others from his chapbook "Twenty Surf Poems and a Song of Despair," "San Simeon" and "Hanalei Colony, " have been published in Slake and in the Berkeley Poetry Review.


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