Still from the Encyclopedia of Surfing Videos' "Brock Little,1967-2016" on Vimeo

Celestial Swells

Place Waimea, Oʻahu
Text Brenda Kwon

One week after you say goodbye,
I find myself driving to your mother’s place
trailing a car whose back seat hosts
a dog stoking on sticking his head out the window
in the way only a dog sticking his head out the window can stoke,
his tight brown fur coat sleek, slick, and unruffled
but his ears,
oh those ears,
flapping like the flaggiest of flags
like parachutes rattling in the sky,
like windbreakers in counterforce gusts
like drying bed sheets when all four corners are pinned to the line—
or the way your curls became jazz hands when you took to the waves.

One week after you say goodbye,
mountains of water pound Waimea,
each lip ending in a crash of thundering foam,
and in the mist lifting off the tubes
I think I see you dancing,
airborne like a maverick,
commanding droplets beneath your feet
because who needs a board when you’ve got wings?
And my hand shoots up to say hello, except
in the way things come and go
suddenly it’s just water to water,
sand to sand.

Sometimes a blink feels like a lifetime.

Back in the days of Bishop Hall,
we learned how nothing that exists is ever destroyed,
how la mariposa could make it shower in Central Park
through the delicate quiver of its wings.
We played our lives with the bravery of youth
invincible and convinced
that we would live forever
and it was nothing but believable that we could never be destroyed.

But in living our years we likewise learned well
that pain could shape-shift into what we create
that sometimes the best of intentions pave the road
to skin wrapped in scars,
hearts cast in plaster,
and something as elegant as a butterfly’s wings
can result in the blows of a hurricane.
And in turn,
who knows what distant beauty brought our pain,
drenched in patience as we dreamed of the break.

Still, once upon a time in Hollywood
you made what seemed impossible real,
leaping tall buildings in a single bound.
You gifted us with the suspension of disbelief,
tallying any casualties of magic far out of sight
like Superman hiding kryptonite beneath his skin
so we could believe that nothing could take Superman down.
Except that one thing took Superman down.

And so one week after you say goodbye
I chant mantras of science to keep you here
the way your mother says she goes nowhere without you.
Nothing is created nor destroyed;
you are here, I know you are here—
but in the quietest moments of my regret,
I wonder if it’s too late to say I’m sorry,
for the delusion and luxury of saying “next time.”

Where do I go to cash in on “tomorrow?”

But like you knew we would need the proof
that nothing connected can disappear
one week before you said goodbye,
it turns out that Einstein was right after all,
that in this web of the universe, time and space bend,
contracting, expanding to the movement of matter.
Each time we wave our hands in the air
we tug at the net that holds us in place,
and in moving we change the very space
that cushions and cradles all heavenly bodies.
So with this
and this,
we move the stars,
with this
and this,
we shift the planets.
Each time we dance, we shake the cosmos,
the power of Superman in our own hands.

So one week after you say goodbye,
when I find myself driving to your mother’s place
I imagine you laughing among the stars
tickled by the current of a dog’s flapping ears,
and in honor of you, I conduct space
if only to imagine you paddle vibrations
tubes as far as the eye can see
the endless ride of which you’d always dreamed
and the gift of swell upon swell of celestial waves.

For Brock and Doric Little
Brenda Kwon, 2/28/16


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