David Sapp, writer, artist and professor, lives along the southern shore of Lake Erie in North America. A Pushcart nominee, his poems appear widely in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. His publications also include chapbooks Close to Home and Two Buddha and a novel, Flying Over Erie.
Flying over it makes no impression, an abstraction as if the atmosphere between is mountains, canyons, and savannas. Twice I confronted the Atlantic, awed by its chaotic power, its vast, terrifying breadth; the uncertainty of surface; creatures’ teeth and tentacles grabbing hold and pulling me into its depth.
I grew up landlocked between seas of corn and wheat; fished for bass and bluegill and speared frogs in inconsequential ponds, in rowboats rather than ships; and canoed in narrow, muddy rivers. On what we called a lake, the strand was a constant reassurance.
The first time, I was a nervous little boy on a trip to the Virginia coast and Jamestown. (I found it astonishing that, after surviving their voyage, these settlers chose to remain near the horror they endured.) Despite a seawall of boulders taller than my flotsam and gripping my father’s hand, he between the abyss and me, I was certain I’d be swallowed up, my tiny body disappearing more than usual, a negligible morsel for sharks.
(Now living not five minutes from Erie, I rarely visit its shore save a lulling ferry ride to Put-In-Bay once a year for lunch and putt-putt golf. It is enough knowing this unpredictable plain looms, persistent against my horizon.)
This time, nearly sixty, vacationing in Maine, I encounter that familiar frigid wind, the flavor of brine on the air, the collision of continent and ocean. Since I was six, the waves wore away its fringe a bit more, yet the Atlantic remains an intimidation. I sustain my distance, wary of the tide and feign disinterest in its edge lapping at my feet.