Snorkeling in Waimea Bay in August

Snorkeling in Waimea Bay off Kamehameha Highway,
I cramped up and had to be hauled into a catamaran.
Pulled from that surf of light, my legs trailed droplets.
Onboard, I found a seat in a white chair that swiveled.
Was handed a can of beer from the Styrofoam cooler.
The group I’d come to Oahu with swam like dolphins.
I.T. professionals from Silicon Valley. Consultants
dragging the chains of corporate bonuses, cocaine.
Razed marriages. Endless blended drinks in tiki bars.
The captain hated them as an example of something.
Enlisted me in that by virtue of my being different
and from Ohio. Part of what is beyond argument.
I told him I wanted to write poems about the ocean,
the way waves stammer to shore in light that thrills.
Wanted the strolling motions of clouds in the words.
If I was from Ohio, I was no particular threat to him.
He said he’d visited the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton.
Shorebirds gyred above the boat as we drank our beer
and he wrestled aloud with the question of who we are
when we aren’t filled with the activity being beautiful.
I was surprised at what easy targets the Californians
were, given that these swam with a piscatorial grace.
Spent money like lottery winners. The captain told me
he had pitched the woman the catamaran was named for
over the side. In high seas. Said his first mate threw her
a lifeline. Hauled her from the water and saved her life.
He said the two had then married. Moved to California.
The captain spat out the word California, made it snap.
The rest of that day is a wash to me. The coral hearts
beating frond-green, and beckoning yellow, shapes.
The hundreds of species of salt-water fish darting
and passing like the early promise of Creation.

Roy Bentley About Roy Bentley

Roy Bentley is the author of Boy in a Boat (University of Alabama Press), Any One Man (Bottom Dog Books), The Trouble with a Short Horse in Montana (White Pine Press), and Starlight Taxi (Lynx House Press). A new book, Walking with Eve in the Loved City, has been selected by Billy Collins as a finalist for the 2018 Miller Williams Poetry Prize and will be publlshed in the spring of 2018 by the University of Arkansas Press. Work from that collection has appeared in Shenandoah, Pleiades, Rattle, Blackbird, The Southern Review, and elsewhere.


  1. JW Hatfield says:

    THis is a great piece of images and feeling. Mighty fine work Steinbeck Now puts out here.

    Thanks -JW

    • We agree. Thank the poet, Roy Bentley, for bringing sharp insight and warm imagery to America’s preternaturally cold late-winter–socially, climatically, and politically.

Speak Your Mind