4.20 Sea Change
Every Sunday there is a man screaming at the sea.
At dawn, I hear him yelling,
Voice straining violently
As the low tide waves do nothing
To drown him out and let me sleep.
I want to warn him that this weekly ritual is probably bad
For those fragile little threads in his throat.
I can hear them break over the surf,
Especially when he reaches the top of his register.
It sounds like losing one’s balance.
At first I thought he was drunk.
After the third time I thought it was rage,
Then grief after the fourth,
And then back to alcohol-induced.
I went to yell to the man,
But saw he had headphones in and could not hear me.
“Madam, il le fait pour chanter mieux,”
The guard says at my shoulder.
He grabs his throat in his fingertips
And makes a gesture that suggests strengthening.
I nod as though I understand this logic.
“C’est le sel – c’est bon pour la voix.”
If I wanted to sound like beef jerky
I too would scream at the ocean.
The salt would cure my throat so that it never got tired.
In front of us, just out of earshot
The man keeps sing-screaming to the endless ocean
Off-rhythm and Off-key
Hoping to have a voice as tough as the surf.