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Surfer's Paradise by Karol Nielsen

Surfer's Paradise

I wonder about the name,

Surfer’s Paradise, when

I see sun-dried amber grass,

bland stretches of highway,

Speedcoaster, a water slide,

a yellow bus, a caravan park,

McDonald’s, Blockbuster,

silver clouds shrouding sun.

I scan the shore for surfers,

suntanned skin, streaky hair.

It’s empty outdoors, besides

passengers from our bus,

most everyone covered up,

sweaters ‘til late in spring,

except for one brave girl.

She flaunts a purple halter

and camel corduroy skirt,

goose bumps on her arms.

I’m heading north toward

the Whitsunday Islands

and their lovely estuaries—

windswept, sandy snakes

that I’ll sail three days, as

long as my journey there.

I trust it’s worth the trek

from home in Manhattan

to this spot Down Under,

still another day away.

Karol Nielsen is the author of the memoirs Black Elephants (Bison Books, 2011) and Walking A&P (Mascot Books, 2018) and the chapbooks This Woman I Thought I’d Be (Finishing Line Press, 2012) and Vietnam Made Me Who I Am (Finishing Line Press, 2020). Her first memoir was shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing in nonfiction in 2012. Excerpts were honored as notable essays in The Best American Essays in 2010 and 2005. Her full poetry collection was a finalist for the Colorado Prize for Poetry in 2007. Her work has appeared in Epiphany, Guernica, Lumina, North Dakota Quarterly, Permafrost, RiverSedge, and elsewhere. She has taught writing at New York University and New York Writers Workshop.


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