Stephen Ackerman

While Another Dove Nude into the Breakers
January 25, 2023 Ackerman Stephen

While Another Dove Nude into the Breakers


One talked with a talisman
hung round her neck


One scattered ash in a spot
sacred to one other


One wandered among scrub pine
and heard surf through the trees


One slept in the dunes
under noon sun


One saw a freighter
just off the coast


The baleen were diving
in its iron wake


One brushed the hair from her eyes
with the back of her hand


Like a gardener
while another tucked a pencil


Behind his ear
like a carpenter


One said of a city:
save it for us


Though they never entered
that city together


One laid a watch at his feet
and said: time is a river


One hung a yellow diablo
from his rear view mirror


One stopped in a stairwell
to declare her love


One opened a diary
and found a blank entry


And turned the page
to wander after her


One traveled with a hound
as gray as smoke at her side


One climbed a mountain
called Cloud Splitter


While another dove nude
into the breakers


One married in a Memphis monsoon
and the same one refused to marry


No matter how June the day
and fair


One said there is no twilight
like a Memphis twilight


The sky lavender and river
on the last pale blue day of summer


One beheld the rice paddies of Arkansas
one saw egrets like white fruit


Flocked in the branches of a tree
at Moon Lake, in Mississippi


While another watched the sun
spin grass into gold


And the same one beheld turbines
harvest the wind


And passed wash after wash empty of water
Blind Hills, Black Canyon, Dead River


It was dry season
the green grass gold in the sun


One beheld a woman behold
the egrets arrayed in the tree like a strand of pearls


One woman wore the strand
in the green gold grass in the sun


One loved a woman
who had been loved by a man


When they were young
when she was a diver in the breakers


Two men loved a woman who grew her hair long
even in summer


One watched in a fever of desire
watched her lean by the river


Watched her take water from the river
that she poured from beaker to beaker


As she poured her love
from one glass into another


From lover to lover

Stephen Ackerman’s debut poetry collection, Late Life, won the 2020 Gerald Cable Book Award and was published by Silverfish Review Press in August 2022.  Information about Late Life can be found at“While Another Dove Nude into the Breakers” is from a manuscript-in-progress, tentatively titled A Rain Oration. His poems have appeared in many print and online publications, including Alaska Quarterly Review, Best New Poets 2010, Boulevard, Harper’s Magazine, Mudfish, Partisan Review, Ploughshares, Poetry Daily, Salamander, upstreet and Verse Daily.