Catch and Release – a Ghost Story

By: Pearl Thompson
Mills College, Oakland, California 

log jams unseen underwater obscured

turbulence – the reflection of clouds

tricky swift undercurrents swirl

invisible to the eye ashore and at a distance

dragged under: the boy in the life jacket whom we cried about over the landline

tossed against the rocks: the girl I had never met, but we were both thirteen at the time


you swim up and down rivers and trickling rivulets

out of the current and into the shallows

run through foamy sand-brown surf

throwing pebbles and crystalline salt in your wake

the television says the smooth beaches and gentle creeks of my memory are deadly

and on bad days I believe this is true and recall tsunamis and flash floods instead


in familiar forest layers I take comfort

under the trees because the rain falls softer there

but rapidly and unexpectedly

there is a forest fire whirling out into the downpour

I am simultaneously the flames and the pouring rain, a riptide in a mountain stream

a salmon leaping up a waterfall, vision blurred by clouds of mist and smoke and memory