Winner: Same Ocean

Years after being asked, where are you from?/ I realized that I should’ve answered:/ did you know that when seawater meets/ freshwater in the ocean,/ a boundary forms/ between them?

As a poet, I've always been interested in metaphor—not so much because I know how to write metaphor but more because I like to see how better writers than myself exist in those spaces—and “Same Ocean” exists in a beautiful, complicated metaphorical space. I loved the way this poem lingered on a moment, an image, an interaction. There's a weight to the two bodies of water coming together and forming that boundary that I find so compelling and difficult. Like the speaker of the poem, I can relate to the pressure of those bodies of water colliding and even though they slowly come together that boundary never really disappears. “Same Ocean” is an exceptional piece of writing.

—Jordan Abel

Years after being asked, where are you from?
I realized that I should’ve answered:
                    did you know that when seawater meets
                                                        freshwater in the ocean,
                                                                    a boundary forms
                                                                            between them?
Though they appear to not be 
mixing, it does happen, slowly
and over time: two bodies, two places
                                                                 of belonging
                                                                 coming together.
     Despite efforts to keep us
                     apart, to manifest
                              an individual
way of being,
the parts that make up who we are,
in a sense, are part of the same ocean.

                              There is no other way to think
           about this metaphor, only a grandfather
who rigged his boat with a tractor engine
to give the family a better life,
speeding across
                                              water with a few
                                              carrying an ocean’s
       worth of culture
that’s filtered down

                       When asked where I’m from
                       again, I’d say that a man once
                       dreamed of more before turning
                       his gaze
towards the ocean where two
different bodies of water met
and blended until he made
                                                               attempting to walk
                    forward knowing that his existence
                          was forever bound to two places.

Author photo credit to Erin Flegg Photography.