Race at the Marina

I stand at the gnawed lip of a fishing dock

washed to grit by South Floridian sand,

hands shoved in my pockets. Here, day breaks

on the knee of its grinning, salt-slinging god,

his whims birthed from random rain and petty

lashes of lightning. My Shih Tzu, not much

bigger than my fist, snaps her head back

to bark all the fury from her canine heart.

Nothing is discomfited in South Florida,

each palm tree in league with sea sweat.

Always the relentless footrace of heat,

always the sneaky reminders of the wild,

as when a crowd of lakeside strangers gasp

at a sleek shark fin that broaches the surface,

followed by the reptile grace of an alligator.

Two older women finish off their Marlboros

and point to hints of predator and predator

as they disrupt the sunset skirts of the water.

In a crowd of bystanders, graying and young,

rugged and clean-cut, tourist and Floridian,

a shared anticipation rises into the evening—

what will happen when a beast, propelled

by instinct, clashes into the scaly mass

of another? Daisy is a full-lunged queen

poised to pronounce her growl as the final word,

but under her temper is a fear so reeling

and earth-bound that I bend down to her height,

firmly scratching her ears. Yes, you are right,

the world is untamed at best and uncaring at worst,

and these animals with their rippling armor of

muscle and motion can terrify. You have every

reason to tremble for a fight. But look there,

see how the waves stitch the red back together

in wake of travel, see how this is not a race at all

but a passage of equals. Like any good beast, I too

cross the water sniffing the blood of immigration,

my triumphant arrival home lodged somewhere

between the dock and the dark, cool under.

Para Vadhahong is a Thai American poet. Their writing is featured or forthcoming in Brain Mill Press, Kingdoms in the Wild, Hyacinth Review, and Cargoes and Gravel magazines at Hollins University.