a poem: open waters

open waters.
in high school, in college, in my first year of teaching and living overseas, i knew exactly where i wanted to be. i wanted to be in Korea. i was in a boat rowing hard down a single lane track with all my might,
Korea at the end, the prize, the destination. nothing could have gotten me off that track. i might have hit the sides a few times and come upon some rocks but i only had one way to go, forward to Korea.
forward, straight, with no veering and no uncertainty. it was comforting, and infuriating, to see that one track
and all that one track left to row.
until i went to Korea.

but then Korea came, the flag passed overhead, i threw my arms up in victory, waiting for applause.
my hands came down, slowly, as i looked around in the silence.
behind me the track, closing down, fading as i gazed,
ahead and around of me, open water.
no lanes, no destination, nothing but some rocks
and gulls overhead, looking for the dead.
the dead who are in open water and don’t row.
i began to row.
i’m in open water.
i miss the single lane. i miss the safety of knowing,
i miss a signpost to steer to.
i miss the stars overhead pointing a big arrow.
these stars are just pictures.
where am i supposed to go?
what am i supposed to do?
who am i supposed to be?
with open water comes freedom, and paralysis.
with open water comes me.