Say you’re not one of those
lost people in concrete lots

near Malibu and Zuma—
the ocean in your eyes

waves goodbye to the beach
restaurants where you have

never ate rockfish tacos—
admit you’ve not felt the sting
late fall in Santa Ana winds

as heat blows deep through
the mind—a dry riverbed
under California’s lights.

For you never swam your life
and the water never was—

and the water was never
the color you swam it.

After living in Barrow (AK), New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, Bret Shepard is currently a McPhee Fellow in the PhD Program at the University of Nebraska, where he also teaches writing. Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in American Letters and Commentary, Copper Nickel, DMQ Review, Hobble Creek Review, Matter, Portland Review, and elsewhere.

Other California
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