THE FIRST SURFER
It must have begun with a stare
into the crashing water, a different eye
than any before, a version of the one
that scanned up a cragged rock face
before fitting a toe to a horseshoe crevice,
drying palms, straining for the next handhold.
Or the one who set bladed feet
atop a powdered peak, pointed
toward the downslope as a slow glide
accelerated into a fall.
That’s how it must have been
that day on a somewhere beach,
the slip of cool grit between the toes
not satisfying enough, the breeze
seeming to quicken in gust on shore’s edge.
Driftwood worn smooth by tidal lapping,
musty, slivered in urchin spines.
Belly-down paddle through the shallows.
Wide-set hammerhead eyes
slashing through the deep.
A breath of quiet must have followed—
the water column rises under the makeshift board,
the rider stands, balances, as if driven
by a sunken instinct surfacing inside. A seismic churn
sweeps into surf’s curled mouth,
and the rider breaches an unending tunnel,
one others would enter, chisel in hand,
to chip away the eddying swirls
that vanish as soon as they are carved.
Near the Shores of Medicine Lake
August 9, 2013
Oil on Canvas - 1956
Henry E. Ford