Laura Eve Engel








Today everything’s swollen like a sick brain.

The baseboards, swollen. Under-eye skin.

Here are some facts about the sea: when the sky is,

it is very blue. It is nerveless, as the dead nerve soars


over the surface of the stove, burnlessly feeling.

The sea is big and roomless. A big kid holding

a little one by the head as the little one windmills

his arms around in endlessly unthrown punches


is the collective dream of the sea. The sea is not

a machine for giving, though it is so big.

Sometimes we call it mother but it is the sea.

These days there’s less and less of me.







We must address the issue of delivery.

Being that I am conspicuously addressless.


Believe it: above us both some birds

go neck-first into weather.







Memory clicks like film, and a girl

sure is out far.


She’s building

a collection of objects

to unremember.


The collective unremembering

of a city—its buildings—in party—


this half-thought may depend

on some folding

and unfolding of itself like a wave.


The sea’s distended belly

gets excited from so much tossing

and that’s how waves are made.


The girl’s hair is wet and clumps

and flops in limp curls.


Soon her insides will tire of trying

to stay settled and even

the effort will leave her.







It’s hard to know a big thing so exactly.

The shoreline knows what it knows.


I am trying to hold all the words for what I know

in my head even as my head fills

with a fear bigger than what it can hold.


What I’ve learned to call by one name

exceeds itself and becomes another.


I tell you, I used to know it.


I used to be full of salt and bound

by other objects.


Then the speed of the waves made me nervous.


There’s a moment when you’re listening to a sound

repeat itself when you can give in or begin to panic.


Then your memory goes.







When I’ve been too long awake sometimes

it takes staring as hard as I can past the boat

to even believe in the water.


Other times I knock against the boat

to be sure where I am is still a kind of land.


Uncertain, who won’t take a little nuzzle

up to the sides of things.


On land people walk around bound

by their impulses.


They push off from them.







It matters whether you think of the sea

as the presence of water or as the absence of land.


As a cupboardless bowl or a boatless wreck.


A river with no self-control or where

you find yourself in pain.







The talk it’s possible to have about the sea

moves in a line above the sea and does nothing.


The owls. Their sounds.


They rise into relief over the ground

above their prey,


which is being driven further

into the night by a strong smell.


The old road. Your own arm in your hair.


The sea is a hard logic that snaps like a sheet.


Under the sheet you’re dreaming you’re losing

control of the car.








The sea is a laboratory of continuing on beyond

when a thing is finished. To move by is. By scape.


When the girl—when the road—

when the animal in the girl on the road—


The ribs of the boat reach out to France,

then touch France.


Sharing is being in a thing another thing is also in

without acting on the urge to leave.


Is it wrong to know a fish you’ve never seen?

To want to be a girl nobody told you of?







It still applies, you know.

The universe.


Were I addressing someone else,

a slew of someone elses, I might say


So may the waves apply themselves to you,

and also to you.


For example, even out here

I sometimes feel spontaneously,

dangerously pregnant.


The mind does this, it includes everything.


I sink down into the mind

until I’m stupid with it.


There’s been nothing inside me.


I know because at sea nothing

is easy to identify.


Some rare land days I’d desire

to picture myself

as a boat under your hands.


I know now it couldn’t have been.

Having seen one.


You want to know what there is to be missed

about the world—it’s this, the not recognizing.







The number one cause of sea

is other sea.


We crane our necks, a flock

of necks, at it, as it becomes she

then shes.


Its plurality. One’s choice

is simply and only to make more of,

being full of them.


I becomes them, bounded by

the serious

pursuit of more sea.


Other objects,

its gleam rises up out of.


There are flares—there—


that in-the-distance feeling

perpetrated on us by a loss

of object.


By reflection. The boat doubles

over itself,

and we’ve seen others,


know we look like a cross-section of water,

two ink boats folded over.


We know that there’s a second boat,


and upside down.


I’ve carried this image with me

out here, where I will leave it.


LAURA EVE ENGEL is the author of Things That Go, forthcoming from Octopus Books in 2018. A recipient of fellowships from the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing and the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, her work can be found in The Awl, Boston Review, PEN America, Tin House, and elsewhere.