Poem of the Week | December 06, 2021

This week’s Poem of the Week is “Off the Gulf” by Patricia Liu!

Patricia Liu is a recent graduate of Harvard College, where she studied English and East Asian Studies. Her work has appeared in POETRY, The Cincinnati Review, The Colorado Review, and The Adroit Journal. She is originally from Oklahoma, and currently resides in Washington, DC.


Off the Gulf

I’m learning how to swim again,
held piggyback by my love, when
the waves darken, beached sand
dollars quivering back to life as they
hitch a ride with the wind gust and
dragonfly after dragonfly submits
itself to the airstream. He glimpses
a grocery bag, drops my legs, and strains
to catch it, the floating badge of plastic
film. There’s another, and another, and
now he’s left me for someone else’s
neon umbrella. The clouds are charging
in, more shadow than anything, more
willing to throw down every last drop
of themselves than sink. My body
would rather wheel and sputter and take
the whole thing under, clinging to each
bit of itself with the fervent clutch
of a storm to its center. Bobbing, as the
cormorants skewer their flopping prizes,
I’m finding the bottom bed of shells
with the tips of my toes, up and down
and into my love’s grasp. He’s returned
to carry my sorry limbs to shore as
I marvel at the sudden onset of rain,
thinking there’s no match to such
absolute and intense arrival, not
seeing what was in front of me
all along, all of myself in this
one exemplary hold.


Author’s Note

About two or three years ago, I stopped wanting to take pictures. I’m still not sure if I’ll remember more or less of my life as a result. What I do know is that poetry became another sort of capture for me. This poem, in lieu of photographs, holds my memories of Sanibel: learning to swim after having forgotten, witnessing the beginnings of a thunderstorm, falling in love for the first and last time.