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Kalikiano Kalei

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· Saddam's Toilet, Part 3

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Books by Kalikiano Kalei
  The Man in the Gray Suit
by Kalikiano Kalei
Friday, March 28, 2008
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Recent poems by Kalikiano Kalei
•  If women had udders...!
•  Of Rose, as sunset floods the room at dusk
•  Five Up, One Down...
•  More dirty climbing limericks
•  First ascent of Broad Peak!
           >> View all 59




Australian surfers call sharks 'the man in the gray suit'. Surfers, almost by unspoken consensus, typically do not discuss the danger that sharks pose to those on boards. Although the chances of being hit by a shark while surfing are probably less likely than being personally involved in an unsurvivable airline crash, there is something irrepressibly sinister about the thought of being eaten alive by another carnivore for dinner; it is perhaps one of humanity's deepest and most persistant ancestral fears, despite our present status on the apex of the figurative food chain. In Hawaii the ancient culture believed that certain sharks are family ancestors who have returned to the sea in the form of protective spirits, or 'aumakua'. The ancients have hundreds of stories about such shark spirits ('manoakua') that have helped the Hawaiian people at sea. Regardless of popular belief and contrary to the strength of logical reasoning, these powerful creatures of the deep are always lurking silently in the blackest depths of my imagination when I surf. Perhaps it is the special curse of one endowed with a greater than normal sense of imagination? (Image after a painting by artist Paul McPhee)



The Man in the Pale Gray Suit

 


It’s feeding time out upon the pale green open waters.

The ocean hovers below the squatting fireball, waiting to consume

Its blazing orb of fire that settles reluctantly lower,

Ever closer, nearer to the ocean’s restless watery maw.

Finally, fires quenched, Sol meets its fate and plunges under.

 

Blue skies darkened, each brilliant ray mutates burnished gold.

I head away from shore upon my board and into the turbid murk,

Mindful of possible unseen companions in their pale gray suits.

Doubtless silently regarding my seal-like shape upon the surface

Not unlike a wolf views a lame deer, limping weakly into sight.

 

Paddling out, the mental math of odds and statistics competes

With the physical exertion of making headway, ‘til the thought's

Cut off by straining muscles, demanding ever greater circulation.

Waves stream in, crest, pound down as I duck under them and roll,

Surfacing on the outer lip, sputtering and clearing my eyes.

 

What are the chances that my dangling arms and splayed out legs

Will end up as a side dish for some ancient, primordial behemoth

That nature has spent 500,000 years quietly perfecting, evolving

The most perfect killing machine ever to swim the shadowed deep?

I am no gambler by inclination, least of all to wager with the sea.

 

Nightbirds soar overhead, heading out to fish, an echelon of pelicans,

Fly in single file, low to the water. As I break through the outside,

Piercing beyond the staggered waves and steaming crests, I turn,

Taking in the surrounding, darkling waters, now left in shadowed gloom.

I am alone with the sea, all but the hissing wave crests are still and quiet.

 

I know quite well it is not a wise idea to be by myself out here,

And yet the sublime beauty of the endless, crashing, coursing waves

Forces me to relax my guard, allay my unreasoned anxieties…until I see

The fin that is 50 yards from me, in a trough between the waves,

Its black scalpel of remorseless precision slicing a fluidic groove.

 

Quickly, quietly, as noiselessly as barely controlled panic will allow,

I lay down upon the board and scull for shore, looking back at that

Hungry phantom Tiger that prowls nearby for its next meal. Aumakua?

Or simply a mindless food processor that cares not what casual form

Its evening feeding takes? I reach shore safely: the sea again is empty,

Night has come as silently as the man in the pale gray suit.  




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Reviewed by David Delaney
You are so right, when my mates & I were out there this topic was never discussed, but sometimes at night over a couple of beers it was.

I really enjoy your writing mate.

Dave.
Reviewed by Lloyd Lofthouse
The description was so vivid, I was there--something I doubt I'll ever experience in reality. I wonder what it was like for those crewmembers from the cruiser Indianapolis (I think it was called) that was sunk after delivering the two bombs that ended WWII--imagine the fear, the adrenaline rush for the hundreds of crew members in the water as the sharks attacked again and again taking hundreds.
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