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The waves stretched out too far and stomped too close.
To put the boats in safely meant an hour
of watching for a gap three seconds wide,
or blinking twice then sprinting late and searching
only to find your gap gone, and your boat
tumbling over you in unruly surf.
So I went first. We only had an hour--
on calmer days, enough to numb my arms
from paddling with the dolphins through the troughs.
Today we spent the first two minutes still.
The next ten minutes went to watching gaps
go by. I slapped my paddle at the sea
as if to smack the flat against her shins,
convince her to retreat for just a breath.
My gap came and I sprinted into it,
dragging my kayak in ankle-deep roiling surf
then knee, then chest-deep, then I flopped aboard
and shouted to my father to come in.

She caught him high above his waist and threw
him back on land, too old and weak to keep.
He stood, collected all his gear and leapt
back in, sharp prow against the foaming green.
I lost my line of sight in all the chop,
then saw him pierce the sky, bow aimed straight up,
with no respect for gravity or sense,
exactly balanced on the surging crest.
I pictured CPR and broken bones
and mother’s admonition not to tempt
the ocean in this wind. I saw him dead.
Then tilting down, my father and his boat
relaxed. The foam ran down his face,
but couldn’t keep his laugh from elbowing
the sea, a jilted girl, her shoves a farce.

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