Licking the Salt in Ocean Air mOde


—for Mellie Mel and Roxy


(1) There are women born California who dream

they will own oceans for life. They discover this from
French kisses—scratches on a bad boy’s back. Dreams.

It’s through dreams and the momentum of why dreams
slam into their brains—conducting waves to walk into

a reality, a purpose—the hand touching underneath
black lace bra, not squeezing the breast but caressing

the beat, searching life’s bulges, praying for wisdom
that arcs above the head. When the woman here designs

like woman sifting grain on archipelago, in adobe
kitchen, the “Me! Me! Me!” is a hand reaching for all.

(2) Sometimes it’s a splayed hand spreading over her

heart until she can feel dim throb of his heartbeat
pulsing with hers, saying, “I only want tomorrows.”

But for those who’ve never licked the salt in ocean
air, it is a smoke-and-mirror pony-trick. No one

can manhandle constellations. We all have been
burned to a recognition that our scars are smoldering

palisades only reachable by dark seagulls. When
the rain plat plat plats, concrete timbre moans,

sounds out birth noun, Pasadena. In Southern Cali
these women allege loyalty to this dream, pulsating—

but we all lie for a reality, each second, this must.


Photo by Scott Johnson


About Author

Curtis L. Crisler was born and raised in Gary, Indiana. He received a BA in English, with a minor in Theatre, from Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW), and he received an MFA from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He has two poetry books out: Don’t Moan So Much (Stevie): A Poetry Musiquarium (Kattywompus Press) and “This” Ameri-can-ah (Cherry Castle Publishing). His recent poetry chapbook Black Achilles (Accents Publishing) was released in 2015. His previous books are Pulling Scabs (nominated for a Pushcart), Tough Boy Sonatas (YA), and Dreamist: a mixed-genre novel (YA). Other chapbooks are Wonderkind (nominated for a Pushcart), Soundtrack to Latchkey Boy, and Spill (which won the 2008 Keyhole Chapbook Award). He is the recipient of a residency from the City of Asylum/Pittsburgh (COA/P), the recipient of fellowships from Cave Canem, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA), Soul Mountain, and guest resident at Hamline University. He edited the nonfiction book, Leaving Me Behind: Writing a new me, on the Summer Bridge experience at IPFW. Crisler received a Library Scholars Grant Award, two Indiana Arts Commission Grants, the Eric Hoffer Award, the Sterling Plumpp First Voices Poetry Award, and was nominated for the Eliot Rosewater Award. His poetry has been adapted to theatrical productions in New York and Chicago, and he has been published in a variety of magazines, journals, and anthologies. He is Contributing Poetry Editor for Aquarius Press, and one of the Poetry Editors for Human Equity through Art (HEArt). Crisler is an Associate Professor of English at IPFW.

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