The soul of Walt Whitman has gone into the ocean


and I like to picture myself there,

barefoot as the tide washes in,

accepting the wind into pores

to heal every affliction.



is the final affliction.

It may exist on separate clouds

but true loneliness—

the final condition—

is what swells inside

when every person is gone or seems gone


and you begin to feel


from yourself.


Walt Whitman must have known this,

for he devoted himself to a purpose:

to kill loneliness,

to glue together the soul of the world.



I’m here, West Virginia, and the ocean

is hundreds of miles from here.


The lights are bright to burn my clothes,

I breathe in tidal wave hallways,

I watch the moonlight wax

on a sign

in a strip mall parking lot.


Hundreds of miles from here,

the ocean speaks


but all I hear is the sad singing of insects


which is fine.


I remember myself kneeling by the ocean,

Pismo Beach, California, it was December,


I wore a flannel shirt cuffed bluejeans and

no shoes,


I was kneeling to pick up a perfect sand dollar


I had not written a decent poem in months.


Looked out over the water,

the wind singing through bones,

the sun as bright as I had ever seen—


I remember myself by the ocean


the edge of the continent,

the bite of sand on cold feet,


the death of loneliness.


It creeps back in, of course, in time

I cannot escape myself


but I do like to picture myself kneeling

at the ocean,


the dark gray feeling



The walls may turn black,

the ceiling may swirl and the sun

may disappear,


but living is possible.


Life expands. It swells. The soul grows with time.


In a nursing home, I look

at my old grandfather.

He has Parkinson’s Disease,

his body is a prison.


His body burns

with nearly 90 years of living,

his soul is burning to burst through the walls.


He sits in a leather chair, a blanket

covers his legs.

If I touch his hand, he turns to face me.

His eyes are so beautiful,



90 years of soul.


There is a future

without eyes,


a future that doesn’t include any of us.


The ocean

calls me home


as the moonlight waxes

on a sign

in a strip mall parking lot.


The moon will remain

but the sign

and the strip mall

will shrink to skeletons


with no eyes to watch them


That future

is so easy to picture—

I can see its shadow now.


I see the shadow of the sky

that has fallen against the land


I see the ocean

that has crashed against loneliness


I see the ocean

that has enveloped the planet


I hear the ocean

calling me home.



Luis Neer is an alumnus of the 2014 WV Governor’s School for the Arts and will be attending the West Virginia Writers’ Workshop at WVU this month. As of 4 June 2015, he is sixty-four pages into Infinite Jest. Some of his most recent publications can be found in Squawk Back; Maudlin House; The Rain, Party & Disaster Society and elsewhere.


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