Jess Smith


The sermon of the ocean: nothing lasts
that I wish dead. A light that looks like dawn
all day, that feels like the first hour
of winter, your hands demanding

their way into my sweater, the gust
of your blown mouth, how the breaking
waves strip the shore of its first skin, drag
their cage of larceny across whatever

has worked hard to crawl, on all
fours, away. Like the first time
I ever saw the Pacific, and you said
I told you it was bigger, the choking

foamy groan of high tide, God’s jaw
unhinged and hungry. Your laughter slapped
against my skin, a signal that I, too,
should be happy. Of course the sea

has teeth. Of course we lie beside it
like a dare, starfish in our blood, limbs
that won’t regrow, your hands at my
throat, isn’t this romantic, isn’t this

what I wanted? Isn’t this how you always
end up – cold enough to know your blood
is hot, unsure enough to turn back
before you’ve even begun to run?

Jess Smith’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Waxwing, The Rumpus, 32 Poems, and other journals. She is currently pursuing at PhD in English at Texas Tech University, where she co-founded and curates the LHUCA Literary Series.