The Breakwater

In World War II they built walls beneath the waves to stop submarines from reaching the shore. These protectors of the coastline then became the enemies, deadening the surf, dampening the tide, dirtying the water. Stickers breed in the city: “Sink the breakwater. Save the waves. Restore the shore.”

I kick against sand, sprinting south along the coast. My footsteps trace the tide-line clay just hard enough to run on as I heat blood and flush skin. Waves crash against my feet. My calves burn, my ankles cranking hard against the sand as I seek balance. I see a wall far south and think that I have been here before. After a mile of making footprints that vanish in the tide behind me, I meet the stones. I look across a watery chasm to another wall, the parallel that made this place so familiar.

I have been a hundred people on these shores, have learned to trace my fingers along new scars and even love their shapes. I am here to heal my most recent wound, hoping the memories will disintegrate in the sand and sea foam.

The waves bounce between the walls and fold the currents, churning water into webs, prisms, transitory gems.

I think of you. I think of how the tides are tampered with.

The sun is sinking behind a horizon of imperial clouds. The silhouettes have all blurred by. The ocean is lonely, an expanse that drowns even its solitude. I have come here to be far away.

The Breakwater Study sought the redemption of the shore but discovered instead an ecology that had co-opted the stones. The ocean had broken the breakwater into reefs, a place teeming with life.

It is never so simple as tearing something down.


This piece was originally written in Spring of 2012. It is difficult for me to classify it strictly as lyric or creative nonfiction in nature, and in that way it serves to demonstrate the way I like blurring the lines.

A special thanks to Laura Hamblin (who helped get this to a more concise and effective place) and Harte (who the piece is about).

Still not bored? Check out more creative nonfictionvisit the store, or head to the blog.