by Laura Parker Roerden

Go to open ocean, I heard,
as I had spent too much time struggling

on the edges in the surf.
There is only one way to climb

out of the grave of a riptide;
all lifeguards know this.

You must swim parallel in deeper water.
You must give up the safety of heading for shore.

Pelagic water is where you’ll find
your agency. Where the bottom that drops out

beneath you is a relief from striving.
In open water, you no longer orient

to the rocks or sand or sky. You must begin
a long dive within to mark your spot on any chart.

You must give up the idea of destinations and float on your back
to calm a fraught heart, even as you imagine

what lurks beneath might be something bent on harm.
As you breathe, each draw is a deep pull down

to the wave trough of awareness.
This is all.
 You will find an inner landscape has just as many

reference points as land. Only now you will navigate
by memory, by sensation, naming feelings as if

plotting pushpins, with paper giving way with ease.
Yes, this pelagic water is where you’ll find fragments

do not fall like shards of glass or dried flowers
or dust; but instead flutter and fold as one,

revealing shade as merely depth or night
and shape as the other side of dawn.

© Laura Parker Roerden. All rights reserved.

Laura Parker Roerden is the founding director of Ocean Matters and the former managing editor of Educators for Social Responsibility and New Designs for Youth Development. She serves on the boards of Women Working for Oceans (W20) and Earth,

About the Pelagic Zone
The pelagic zone is the part of the open sea or ocean comprising the water column, i.e., all of the sea other than that near the coast or the sea floor. The name is derived from the Greek πέλαγος (pélagos), which might be roughly translated as “sea” but is more accurately translated as “open sea.”

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One thought on “Pelagic Water

  • Rose Alfieri

    Simply beautiful and true.


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