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Poems | Poems | The Zen of Surfing

The Zen of Surfing

Today I met a man who surfs.
He told me: I am ready to die
at any moment—that is the only way
a surfer survives
When down inside the wave
there is no up or down,
only darkness;
you can’t tell which way
your body is being tossed
and when you see light
—as at the end of a tunnel—
you give thanks
for being alive
as you drift toward the surface.
Any action, any attempt
to preserve yourself,
panic or fear,
will end up killing you—
taking precious oxygen.
So all you can do is submit
to the element of ocean,
to the wave as it engulfs you,
to being at peace in yourself,
ready to cease this life—
in the womb of the wave
to be reborn into another dimension.
This absolute faith,
this absence of desire,
this willingness to let go
is the only state
that will allow your body
to conserve enough oxygen
or energy to survive.

From your ankle
the surfboard is attached
with a leash;
when you are in the wave
tossed about in darkness
and the ocean’s power
and your own metaphysical
suspension—the board
is floating somewhere fifteen feet
away, inside the wave,
tumbling as if in outer space,
and when you surface
the board will hopefully
also surface
but always the risks
of the board hitting you,
the coral you could scrape against,
the unseen dangers of the deep.

You paddle out
far from shore,
you wait alone on your board,
waiting for the wave
you want to ride
and again you must give yourself up
to the ocean, to float above
whatever swims below
unknown to you, sharks or whales;
down in between each wave
nothing is visible
except the wall of water,
looming ten feet or more
above you on either side;
occasionally other surfers
may paddle out as far as you,
but in the wave’s trough
as you descend into the space
between each wave
you can see no one and nothing;
you are alone, alone, alone
with sea and sky
and your own strength to survive
or peace of heart to die,
suspended in a state of grace
risking all you have—your life.
Each time you resurface
or reach the shore,
you offer a prayer of thanks
for life, for living, for all
you’ve known and experienced
up to that moment.


Copyright by Carolyn Zonailo:, 2004 | Poems | The Zen of Surfing
Wave Goddess
The Wave Goddess
Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Zonailo attended ...
CZ is a visionary poet who writes with compassion and careful detail about the world she lives in.
GoddessThe Goddess in the Garden combines mystical insight and sensual language to evoke a timeless meadow where humans and deities play out eternal passions.
She draws on her study of mythology, astrology, and Jungian psychology, for a seemingly inexhaustible source of imagery.
There is a quality in her work which makes all her poems hers, but Zonailo’s style does differ. Compendium is a collection of short, lyrical poetry; Zone 5 of prose. Each book is an extension of her poetic exploration and a separate expression.
Over the years of sitting in Grant's Cafe or the Europa and talking poetry with Lewis Gretsinger, the questions have been asked: why write? what are you saying? what are your poetics?
Last Will and Testament
I give my soul to God.
I give my body to the earth.
I give my poems to posterity.
I give my spirit to tolerance.
I give my mind to the future.
Forthcoming Titles
The Land of Motionless ChildhoodThe Land of Motionless Childhood is a memoir of short stories by Carolyn Zonailo about growing up in Vancouver, and her Doukhobor heritage.
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CZPictures of CZ from her 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s.
Literary Papers
Spanning the years 1955 to 2005, the Carolyn Zonailo Papers holds, as nearly as possible, a currently complete collection of Zonailo's extant literary papers.
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