Exhaustion of a Limbo – Jake Ayres

Each place continues to yield its own quiddities, its own miraculous movements, and its own tragedies.

–C.D. Wright


What a strange place to wake

   up in —   some beachy thing

str e tched      taut across the earth

     thin as balloon – skin. Sniff sniff :

Salt.    Dimethyl sulfide.    You know,

        that ocean smell. Invisible krill –

  clouds wafting around     ( really

invisible? ( may as well be ) ). A whale

      dips through the sky — slow breach

below the surface    layer dark

  milk – cloud cover    for air.

      Me too, big guy,     I’m here

breathing like you : we’re

taking our time, been here before,

     holding it in,

    swallowing tiny things that give

themselves away so easily ;

   myopic ‘til it matters

       what’s just out    of reach —.


Whale – friend rises    out of sight,

    back to the pod,     perhaps, or that

lonely blue above   the neutral

       gray – blanket – ceiling ;

some seagulls eye my fries,

rats with wings   my dad

used to say,   my brother

    always the one   to toss them

        a few, as if     that makes

     a difference ; the swarm comes

                                        regardless who beckons.

           The gulls dance and sing

      like they just learned to fly.

What is that certain shine,

    the sheen of feathers in wind : I

Remember now I wasn’t taught to walk,

         not really, nor to sleep, I just

                                                       sort of found them there

waiting for their host   to arrive.

Licking the ketchup off a finger    I wonder

    about all the ways to be lost.

                             The gulls give up on me.


              I miss my whale – friend.

Things were simpler with you

    dipping up and down, giant

ovioid eye eye-ing my life :

              I’d never felt so beheld.

Mom’s shadow                 back there

                                     on the boardwalk : growing taller

               all the time ;

                              she cools my forehead even

turned around.


I sense the sand    creeping over

    my towel now,    stretching

for my wallet    my phone my

keys—                                   how will you leave

              this place without them

the octopus asks, camouflaged

                to the nines like a shovel

and pail, you cannot exist

                                without things !     things ! things !

                  kept close to your body

you must live like

    the cephalopod, we’ve got it

all figured out,     I can squeeze

           through just about anything

see             and octopus buttons itself up and slips

                                  through a crack in a sandcastle—


              I don’t know how

     to respond to a cephalopod

                           so I bury myself up

              to my neck and wait

    for the tide to come in

and it does                         ( flash flood )

so now I’m under the sea :

I see every friend I’ve ever

    lost touch with waving slowly—

            I start to wave back, but then

whale – friend pokes its head

            beneath the water and smiles

                        that big beautiful cetacean – smile,

sings, hey man

        we’re all here

                            we’re all buried

                                        we’re all working on it




look at the size of that krill – cloud

                                                                                  see you later!

                                        —tide goes out—

there are too many things

                too many things

to think about                                 I hear an albatross say

                                 as it carves through the air

                  back to its nest on an impossible cliff.

The sun hasn’t budged an inch.

On the warm sand my body

    nestles under soft, fine time,

sure heat tip – toes into my eyes

               and knowingly nudges me again into absence.




Jake is a book buyer and seller at Powell’s Books on Hawthorne, where he has worked for 2.5 years. He is the founder of big hug publishing and of the poetry journal Windowcat.

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