Like a bronze-colored sky god, he extends his arms to his sides. He bows his head in service to her expansive beauty. He turns to grab his board, but before entering the surf, he marks the sand with his feet—maybe in x’s. He repeats this motion three times as if he’s wiping his feet clean before entering someone’s house.

Yesterday I listened to her breathe. She called me from her bed in hospice. She breathes a heavy hello as if questioning why I called her. I know she’s confused. So am I. “You want me to just talk to you? So you know someone’s here with you?”

Some rituals are born from the desire to keep us safe. Some pancake on the sand to round out their spines. Some lift their children toward the ephemeral blue; wrestle a bad relationship, up and over.

Maintain annual check ups. Celebrate a life.

My ritual begins at the start of the path. In my head, I chant, Akua, please keep everyone safe from injury and harm. Keep everyone safe from injury and harm. I repeat this at least three times, until I turn the cliff and see the white wash, two-three feet high, and know it’s going to be frothy out there. Sometimes the ocean is a safe place to land.

I know this is the start of the end. I tell her it’s storming on top of my mountain. “The birds have gone quiet for now.” I can’t bring myself to hang up, so I wait for my phone to die.

I say injury and harm knowing they are two different things. Even though both could be inflicted by self and others, harm lingers—whether in spirit or body, whether temporary or permanent.

Shareen K. Murayama is a poet and educator.Her first chapbook, HEY GIRL, ARE YOU IN THE EXPERIMENTAL GROUP? by Harbor Editions and her first poetry collection, HOUSEBREAK by Bad Betty Press,will be published in 2022. She reads poetry for The Adroit Journal,and cnf for JMWW Journal. Her art is published or forthcoming in Pilgrimage Press, SoFloPoJo, SWWIM, The Willowherb, Scrawl Place, and elsewhere. You can find her on IG & Twitter @ambusypoeming.