Tributaries: "Devil's Crown Rock, Galapagos, Ecuador"

By K.E. Ogden

My body merges with black blades of slicing currents. In the dark water below me hundreds of sharks move in an IV tube from this world to the next. I ask my guide, Pablo, how the orange-sunned rock jutting from the ocean has gotten so beautiful. It is splashed in crisp white across each sunburnt rockface.

“Bird shit,” he says. “Decades of bird shit.”

I cling to the slick core of the Devil’s Crown. Watery suds rush at my face. Father used to hold my body upside-down at the edge of the shoreline at Makapu’u beach. Birds circled the sky and my hands covered my eyes. Father and I body-surfed in that warm, blue water, our right arms pointing toward the shore like warriors.

Flippers propel me from darkness into the headwater. I thought about the last moment. Skinnier than ever, tubes spiraling from his belly, stomach, and arms. He patted the open space next to him and I nestled into his bones. Blood, heart, and breath beat time into nothing.

Pablo swims into the channel and I follow. The water pushes our bodies against the rockwall like dirty rags. Bright circle of sun at the channel’s opening blinds us, but I keep my thighs pulsing and hold one arm at my side and bent at the elbow, the other thrusted forward in a fist towards the sun.

K.E. Ogden grew up in Hawai’i, San Francisco, and Baywood, Louisiana. Ogden’s poems, essays, and stories have appeared in many journals and online venues including Windhover, The Kenyon Review Online, anderbo, brevity, Louisiana Literature, and Phoebe. She was a featured poet for “Poets for Living Waters: A Response to the Gulf Oil Spill.” A community college teacher in Pasadena, Ogden also volunteers with East West Players, the premier Asian-American theater company in Los Angeles, CA, and teaches young writers every summer at the Kenyon Review Writers Workshops.