Kevin Opstedal

Photographs by Pamela Dewey

Rare Surf, Vol. 2


Figure The Cumulative Effect As Mileage

a tropic redundancy ditches itself at last
in overlapping sheets of clear cobalt

you strike it with a hammer to get that
familiar ring above the mumbling
incoherencies of the swell--

I'm living inside the implications of that

If you detach the wind from the leaves
the ambient long-distance muddy green intervals
haul in forgotten Hawaiian war chants

to body-slam the alluvial symmetry
expressed as a curve reaching up over itself

not quite humanoid enough to talk to


Disposable Camera

Sand Formations

feeling invulnerable (numb) stealing a page from
some blue manual of piety I'm not sure what it
means but I understand how tiring it must be
learning how to breathe again

Something Outside

I find her at a beach I only
remember in dreams
where the pupils of her eyes were
prayers pinned to sky black canvas
& you could hear the shoes of nuns
at a midnight procession

I Am Thinking of a Wave

This is your formal invitation to death by drowning


Dawn Patrol

Waking too early with colors I assume are there
because the sun filters down through irradiated kool-aid

the electric turquoise effect in particular is stunning it squats in my hand
only a few inches above the coast highway

like the patron saint of big waves out there running with the winter swell
or pausing briefly at yonder taco stand to consider the karmic value of

beer for breakfast with Keanu Reeves


Paddling Out

when God leans over to
   scrape the sun off the horizon
blatant insinuations of mortality
   might ring bells in Valhalla
but here we just shift into
   lonely music


Kahuna Classics. Melodrama. The Shimmy.
The Twist. Lyme disease. Etc.

the cosmic lounge act
playing nonstop inside the cells I can feel migrate
from aqua tides dragging up pearls like rosaries you finger

beneath a shallow sky

where the sun has spent the better part of the day proving itself
to the pavement I guess

such a sad cup to drink from in the end
which is just beginning its
split-second rendezvous with some future life you've
managed to postpone up to now

is stained a nervous blue

the wind cuts through . . .

it sounds a little like an electric ukulele
you play with your teeth
when you're asleep


Fading like a feather of excess acetylene

drinking cough syrup with John Keats
in a dream
on the bluff at Pacific Palisades

I can see the little warning lights of madness
fickering in his heavily medicated
bloodshot eyes

& leaning into the cold wind
strains of surf guitar
slicing in off Santa Monica Bay

and so Baja, Punta Baja,
Pipeline, The Wedge, High Tide (by the Lively Ones)
lend a dark twang to the
clear almost perfect blue

as if this wasn't the End of Days . . .

O angel of the abyss

Milarepa filter cigarette


The Drowning Man Knows His God

now that you've turned into a greaser I guess there's nothing left
but rain
      & all the doomed puppies of El Dorado . . .

             * * *

             We are near Point Dume
            I wonder if Kathy is still there waiting for
            me I told her I'd be right back

            but then that was in 1974

            * * *

in my personal doomsday prophesy
         San Francisco will have to burn again until
a tsunami of biblical proportions
               douses the flames

& then the New Messiah will arise from the ruins

     they'll call him Flipper


Needles on the Beach

1./ Once Steve McQueen gets hold of the 12-gauge pump shotgun
in The Getaway all prior theories of prosody turn into a thin brown
fluid of some sort.

2./ Dr. Strangelove, on the other hand, should be seen on a double-bill
with The Manchurian Candidate & the collected poems of
Gerard Manley Hopkins.

It might lead to some mirth.

3./ The last time I had mirth it came with an ankle rash.

3a./ Insert here a vision of St. Jude carrying a water pistol & a
framed photograph of Pearl Buck.

"I don't know man, my heart got lost in transit."

I read "lonely" ocean when the word was "lovely"
(must be something wrong with my eyes, but then, why not
"lonely ocean"?


                                                 of filtered light
shafting through stained-glass camouflage
drains the sunset
broken up with headlines
                               of what's lost & won
        I can't call
         for example turning
her wrists a kind of silver
           against the glassy surf the
shimmer of that reflected--

   When the wind picks up in the eucalyptus
           like a vacuum cleaner surfacing in the South Pacific
I get the bends


Island Whammy

This is where the pavement meets the sea
all solid WHOMP
                                    & the light is folded over the edge of the sky
like a blurry panel truck somewhere between here & there,
mid-stream, casting rogue shadows upon the pavement

                          gray-black palm fronds & washed out silhouettes

as though preordained
to exploit the limits of a vague yearning I can't shake
a partial color (as it is) parked in the sky
which is a habit I meant to explore at a later date

as if a change might occur the
way the air of her own speed had
    & I was expecting a different kind of

whatever happens to be flickering in the distance is enough for me
I never asked for anything more       or less      than that



we'll wait until we hear the ocean
recite its secret alphabet

Me in my dark robes & you
wearing the standard issue
seaweed & pearls

The sun dragging through the
sky the mists of time clearing
just a little bit . . .

nothing you haven't already seen before

sinking to the bottom of all this
means it's still dark but
gets darker

like a ukulele solo gone bad

our fingers had a purpose then
like leaves falling or wings

& the sound of waves
told us everything we
never wanted to know


Playa de los Muertos

The inside of my skull felt as though it had been scraped with a table spoon. I spoke to leaves that skittered past on the pavement. Time sped up then slowed down to an agonizing crawl. If it was true that the mind & the body were one then I was fucked. Once on a beach just north of Malibu I left my body for a while I think. I watched walls of sheet glass stand up like vertical swimming pools then crash soundlessly in on themselves. It was all very quiet. The girl I was with said later that she thought I had died. I thought so too but didn't want to say so. She had blue eyes that seemed almost silver. There were broken things in her head. I guess that was something we had in common.


Win a Free Trip to Hawaii

it was the color of rain bleeding

at the gate with shattered roses
noted in a dark leather journal like

Herman Melville or Flavor Flav
& I heard guitars rustling overhead . . .

the Pacific Ocean konked-out from here to Shanghai

in the next room hands are folded over a spoon
medicine evaporating snapshots a Chevy Malibu
allegedly blessed by the Pope
peels out on the wet pavement

Light & dark breaks everything into waves
zeroing-in on a cracked mirror

            to camouflage Eternity
                                  like a tropical disease

& so you figure the palm trees are psychic

           coloring in shadows between lines worn thin

the veins in your wrist
glowing like neon

just beneath the skin


South of No North

                        sharks patrol the reef
yet I keep returning like a ghost
             veering past flamingos
                       distracted by a sky that just won't stand still . . .

     One jungle flower burning under glass
           another dropping lucite petals
                                  check the way they dissolve into
                        shadows of themselves

slanting in off forgotten seas
fluttering like cement flags at dawn

                        I think of those lines from Hagakure
                                  about being bathed in blood & climbing over the
           bodies of the dead like Jackson Pollock

           nodding out with bubble sounds

half a mile away

                     reinterpreted as bells


Rare Surf, Vol. 2

The Collected Poems of Arthur Rimbaud
some pearl dust you peer through
& maybe breathe in a little now & then
switching on the porch lights of X-ville
in your head
feathery surf revisited

Tuesday last (the feast of St. Samurai)
The sun peeling away the layers of ocean fog
for those who come here to die
     1) in dreams half-formed, or
     2) in the vacant lot behind the taco stand

Springtime in Purgatory
when an ambulance passes you say a prayer
while I figure someone just got lucky



Banzai Ghost Train

resilient EMERALD water sloshing against the
rocks on the shore there late night early morning
in time
                         I figure Mesozoic
                         & what must have been one of the
                         all time hit tunes of that era
                                  a kind of surfy doo-wop . . .

ancient palm trees in the flapping black tarpaper winds

"close your eyes & it will all go away"
(not really)

                                    the waves beginning to hollow out
breaking left along the reef
             with the first rays of morning light dropping in
& carving back up
                                   to the lip of the curl


The Road to Xanadu

Bronze sky. Leaving.
1. California
2. The Fortress of Solitude
3. some future world I only just read about

    The douglas iris is in full bloom along the gravel
    in the grass there on the way to RCA beach

I thought
         is blue diamond flame
         is green & secret
         is bleeding

(the sky wasn't bronze it was DARK)

Slaughter on Duxbury Reef

The Ventures' version of this is more thin & terror laden
punching out the god responsible & detonating drum sets


Night of the Iguana

Something external to blame for
           hesitations implied
I thought I heard her humming
                                Amazing Grace
           for a moment there
                                painting shadows on the floor

           I like it that she has two eyes
           a nose & a mouth
           I like that there's an ear on
           either side of her head
           & that her hair falls like dark
           water down past her shoulders

like Our Lady of Malibu at vespers

           or Guadalajara in a rusted bottle
                                 drifting out
                                            on the subliminal tide



Blue, blue-white, aquamarine

Turquoise left standing in the
sun too long got
bleached out

Faded sapphire
a little rusty at the edges
eventually gets profound

lending some translucence
to shadows rippling
on the surface

that you
continuously misread
the feathered breeze

letting the light
redefine your eyes
a moment

to betray yr touch in
feathers of ashes like
the skin of a neon afterthought

already forgotten



Most Latin roots have been
murdered in their sleep
still the double-edged blade of grace
doth cut a notch in darkness
where you in your post cool abstraction radiance
are lighting votive candles with an acetylene torch

& turning a page you sift through the jade & agate
making me think of Montana--not the real
Montana but a Montana that was filmed in Mexico
variegated, blended in clouds

like those silver clouds we watched
break from the fog bank & ride
in on the swift breeze over the
blue-green surf you said & I whispered
as if in the language of sea shells
similar to that of discarded beer cans
or rain a vintage recording of flutes
& rockslides fed through a dull needle

Hold your breath jump from the window
we can tango as we fall
& maybe I should tell you this in Portuguese
beneath a sky the color of a Cadillac
far out at sea where the waves you
ride so flawlessly are born


Like November in Shades
& All the Money I Never Had

broken glass & chunks of concrete
in my heart where you light a cigarette
bathed in the glow of the sun sinking
into a glass of Negra Modelo
                                           & the silver on yr wrists
would blind the stars
                    I thought yes possibly so
          the way horses are running in yr dreams
& yr eyes
                     & the wind rustling the leaves
                                 & the windows are hopeless, lost
& maybe it was yr name I could just
                          barely make out in the jailhouse tattoo
fading against the bronze skin of the sky
            crashing into the dark crumbling beauty of the
ocean out there spilling back
                                            against the tide
when all you really need is a graceful exit line