The Waves [poem] by Diana Goetsch

Tropicana Hotel, Atlantic City

I grew up with the waves and it didn’t matter.
Who cares about endless rows of water
climbing each other’s backs, like your brother
who won’t lay off you? Who would want to live
in the damp cold oppression of brine stink?
Your house is on the water! people said,
but it wasn’t “my” house because I was
just a kid, and it was beside, not on
the water, and the water was boring,
same gray every day, like your mother
who couldn’t think of anything for dinner,
just that hamburger thing she threw together
when she was finally off the phone with whoever,
and the waves waved while we ate in the dark,
and nobody talked and I never waved back.

Now halfway through my life, or even more,
I check into this hotel, unaware
the room saw waves. From the fourteenth floor
I hear them breaking. I’ve got things to do
yet I stay at the window, hypnotized.
I now know what the waves were offering—
not to forgive our sins, just to wash them,
to take us in like laundry, without judgment,
like the local judge who dismissed the summons
for driving my father’s car without a license
after my father left. I was desperate
to get away from the house on the water,
while the waves, the waves and the years
lodged themselves in my blood and my ears.


Image of 1930s Switchboard Operator

Image by ingret9

Diana Goetsch is the author of three full-length collections of poems—most recently Nameless Boy (Orchises Press, 2015)—and four prizewinning chapbooks. From 2015-16 she wrote “Life in Transition,” a weekly column appearing at The American Scholar online. She resides in New York City and can be found at