As evening falls, he tells me there is a vein in my forehead that only appears when I am thinking.

I think about that. I wonder if the vein is visible now.


I am thinking about the sea.

I have always lived near the sea. The sea has always lived inside me. Its constant throb is the percussion of my heart. The sea has long been my companion, a witness to my life.

My unfathomable familiar.

My lips have opened for kisses while the white sea-spray has covered me like a foamy bridal veil. My heart has been broken to the sound of the breakers; the salty scent, a perfume of grief in my mouth. 

I have buried loved ones on the out-going tide, my tears soaked up by wet sand. Damp ashes on my tongue.

I have drowned myself in love and swallowed great gulps of sorrow as I have given up my dreams and secrets to the swift currents.

I have let the waves carry me.


But this night, I am thinking.

This night, I sit under a canopy of stars with an unbroken shoreline at my feet. It is vast and unknowable. I am tiny and insignificant.

I feel the ocean’s pull. I fear the rip, but long for the comfort of the cool depths. I ache for sand between my toes and the numbing cold that warms up my limbs through sheer force of will. I feel the inevitability of the tide. The constant flow, the gush, the soak of blood as it sweeps through my body and I wonder if it has caused my vein to rise.


All around me is the quiet earth.

The unsettled sea is the only noise.

The only light is the burning tip of my cigarette and the sharp sting of a falling star.

The night sky is frozen in a falling firework display, the stain of starlight smeared across inky space, captured in a quick blink of a newly opened eye.

This holy canvas draws my breath from me. I can trace the constellations with my eye. There is meaning there, waiting to be deciphered, but I cannot read it.

There is only silence. I breathe it in. 


There is a lighthouse high on the rocks. It lends me its irregular light. The beam sweeps the dark bay warning passing ships, but I pay it no heed.

For I have long had a talent for shipwrecks.


But this night, there is only this:

The sky. The stars. The sea.

The stretching dark.

I am thinking again. I try to feel the vein in my forehead but my mind is filled instead with a canopy of light. The stars have entered my eyes and I am drunk on their milky glow.

I think about the endless love affair of the sea and the sky. The unquenchable thirst of the stars. The longing of the sea to touch, just once, the hem of the horizon. 

One cannot exist without the other. They are locked in an eternal embrace. They are mirrors for each other. The endless ocean reflecting the beauty of the sky. The moon showering light down upon her lover each and every night.


In the darkness, he tells me I think too much.

I think about this. I wonder whether my vein has risen. 

I turn back to the dark ocean. The footprints I left there in the afternoon have been washed away. There is no trace of what I left behind.  I have been salvaged by the sea.

The waves have swept away the darkness within and the sky has given me a map of stars to navigate by.

My mind reaches for the past.

I think about the future.

He asks me what I am thinking. I tell him that I can see my life inching towards me, stepping out of the darkness, shimmering and salty. I smile as I tell him I am ready to meet it.

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Zara Potts ZARA POTTS is an Associate Non-Fiction editor at The Nervous Breakdown. In a former life, she was a network television journalist, specialising in murder stories and entertainment. She has worked variously as a producer, reporter and publicist as well as contributing to major newspapers and other media outlets in New Zealand. Alongside her television work, Zara has also been involved in radio and film. She also, weirdly, has been a judge for the NZ Music Awards. When she isn't online, she is working on her first novel. She lives in Auckland with a bionic dog.

126 Responses to “A Talent For Shipwrecks”

  1. D.R. Haney says:

    A poem, and a lovely one, Z.

    I think we’re drawn to the sea in part because its vastness suggests eternity, and so provides perspective. Also, all life began in the sea, or so it’s been said, so to stand on a beach is like returning home.

    Is it true that the name Mary means “ocean”? I’ve been told it does.

    • Zara Potts says:

      Thanks, D.
      I have been thinking about the sea a lot lately. Maybe it was the New Year leaf throwing ceremony that put me in mind of the power of the ocean. Something like that anyway…
      I think we talked about the restorative properties of the sea that day we were in Venice – about how the negative ions have the ability to restore optimism? What you say about ‘returning home’ makes me think of that.
      As for Mary – I don’t know. I always though Mary meant Mother. But maybe that’s just the wannabe Catholic in me!

  2. There is a sea cave I always go to. I make sure the tide isn’t too high when I visit, or I would never leave.

    “For I have long had a talent for shipwrecks.” You can see them sometimes from every shore of the imagination. There are ghosts everywhere.

    • Zara Potts says:

      Yep. There are shipwrecks on every shore. I plan to give up my talent for finding them this year. I’m going to discover a talent for shooting stars and seashells instead.

  3. Richard Cox says:

    A beautiful piece. I, too, love sitting on the shore, gazing at the stars and the water and wondering at the enormity of it all.

    Being a woman, you probably do think too much. But at least he asked you what you were thinking.

    • Zara Potts says:

      Thanks Richrob! You’re right – I think far far too much and far far too long. I could really do with thinking less.
      I’m glad you keep me company in my contemplation of the sea and sky!

  4. Oh, I loved this, brew.

    I’ll have to see if I can find you a Mike Doughty song – Navigating by the Stars at Night.

    Here’s to clear sailing!

  5. Jude says:

    Beautiful and evocative words…

    I especially love the line, ‘For I have long had a talent for shipwrecks’.

  6. jmblaine says:

    Ah this was pretty.
    I’ve been missing the water lately.
    The ocean at night.

  7. I love this. I got chills at the end.

    I feel my best at the ocean. So, did my mom.
    I ended up scattering her ashes at her favorite beach
    under the stars and a big moon.

    To me there is no better place to be.
    Now, I have to come to NZ – sounds like heaven.

    • Zara Potts says:

      Oh Steph.
      What a wonderful resting place for your Mom. Under the stars and the moon, there’s no better place.
      I would love for you to come to NZ. We could walk the beaches and contemplate the stars. Oh I wish you would!

  8. Brin Friesen says:

    What a pretty piece this was, Zara.

  9. Don Mitchell says:

    I love it that we both delivered sea-related pieces on the same day, though they are quite different.

    I liked yours very much, especially the use of sea and night and stars.

    • Zara Potts says:

      I’m just about to get to your piece, Don. Oh and by the way I loved your reading! You are hilarious!
      I’m also glad we posted the same day, it feels like too long since I’ve seen your byline!!

  10. Matt says:

    When I was a kid I found the rounded bottom of a glass bottle washed up on a beach in Mexico. It was perfectly intact, but the rolling and exposure of the ocean had worn all the cutting edges down into gentle curves. This piece reminds me of that: something that could have come from a realm of pain and hurt but has instead been transformed by the gentle movement of the sea into a genuine treasure.

    From where I live I can see the Pacific, and on a good day, smell it as well. It’s only fifteen minutes away by bicycle. I don’t want to live any further away from it.

    • Zara Potts says:

      What a gorgeous analogy, Matt. Thank you for writing that. It does feel transformative, I feel that I have been shaped by stormy weather and have come out the other side softer and less sharp. Sometimes a little bit of pain can be good for us I guess…

      • Matt says:

        I’ll say.

        I had a collection of little bits of sea treasure I’d found over the years: shells, shark’s teeth, driftwood, and even a couple of pieces of whale bone. All lost in the hurricane. Reading this makes me want to go down and walk on the shore for a while, get my collection going again.

        • Zara Potts says:

          This will probably sound a bit new-agey, but I once had an amethyst pendant (a loooong time ago) that I was always losing, but somehow I would find it again. Then one day I was swimming in the ocean and the pendant fell off and disappeared under the waves. I thought that it was really gone this time for good, but no – the next day I was walking along the beach and there it was sitting on the sand. Huh.

        • Matt says:

          Nothing new-agey about it. The tide takes and the tide gives.

  11. Meghan says:

    I’m not particularly good at choosing favorites of anything. But, if asked what my favorite poem is, I would probably respond with the one that pops most often into my head. Etheridge Knight’s “Belly Song,” which is pretty much how I feel about the sea.

    “You have made something out of the sea that blew and rolled you on its salt bitter lips. It nearly swallowed you. But I hear you are tough and harder to swallow than most.”


  12. A beautiful poetic musing, Zara. Really beautiful. I always lived by the sea until coming to Korea and it’s so weird being away from it. I used to freak my parents out by staring at the sea and losing myself in the thought. They aren’t big thinkers… But I was that day-dreaming kid who just needed the crash of the ocean to lose himself.

    Did you ever read Big Sur, by Kerouac? It’s a great book, and the end is a long poem about the sea. He sat there listening to the ocean and writing its sounds as words… “Cherson cherson!”

    I was lucky enough to meet Michael McClure, who spent a lot of time at Big Sur with Kerouac, and Kerouac would tell stories by the water, telling stories of the sea… And McClure has the bluest eyes, the smoothest voice and the most grandfather appearance you can imagine… And he sat there and retold Kerouac’s old tales. Beautiful.

    • Zara Potts says:

      Aww thanks David. I hear you about just wanting to lose yourself in the crash of the ocean…
      And thanks for the tip re Kerouac.
      You are going to love the Australian beaches, I promise you.

  13. Ducky says:

    I love the way you write.

    I was a mermaid in a previous life.

    You’ve made me think of the Great Ocean Road and the Twelve Apostles. One of my favorite places in the world.

    • Zara Potts says:

      Thanks Ducky! That means a lot to me.
      I think you probably were a mermaid in a former life. A beautiful shining one with a stunning tail.
      Isn’t the Great Ocean Rd great? ho ho. I love it there too. I have to say, we are pretty spoiled down under when it comes to stunning coastal scenery.

      • Ducky says:

        My mermaid name was Ruby. (Seriously, my sister and I used to play mermaids in the pool. Dorks.)

        The only rival we have is Hawaii. Haven’t ever been to NZ, but my mother lived in Adelaide for several years, so I spent some time traveling up that road. I love Australia, and hope to one day live there for a spell (but that damn plane ride!)

  14. Ducky says:

    Oh, and I love this:

    My lips have opened for kisses while the white sea-spray has covered me like a foamy bridal veil.

    Shit, that’s good!

  15. Ducky says:

    Yes. You control the pom poms.

    And the pyramid.

  16. Zara,

    Lovely lyricism in a thoughtful piece.

    The sea is everything–you are right–both past and future. It is both life and could be death.

    To chime in on Duke’s comment on the “Mary” thing–Mary means bitter, I believe (yeah, that’s weird). But “mer” is sea, and also “mare?” and the name “Marissa,” for example means star of the sea. So there is that, for whatever it is worth.

  17. Kimberly says:

    I’m going to quote Mel Brooks here:

    “Gol darnit, Mr. Lamarr, [Ms. Potts] you use your tongue prettier than a twenty dollar whore.”
    – Blazing Saddles

    Lovely, you.

  18. Margot says:

    Ah that was lovely, Zara. I, too, am a big ocean fan.. nothing quite like the sea to soothe the soul. But I think a talent for shipwrecks is not always a bad thing (though I do try to focus on the positive!) but if you shipwreck.. at least you can end up somewhere new and unexpected :) May 2010 be full of adventure (and calm) and maybe a few shipwrecks of the good sort that leave you in wonderful, unexpected places :)

    • Zara Potts says:

      Hey Margot,
      I agree with you. The sea is soothing, even when it’s sometimes stormy. And you’re right -shipwrecks don’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, after all many of them hold hidden treasure..
      Thank you, as always, for reading and for your kind wishes. You gladden my heart!

  19. Greg Olear says:

    Gorgeous piece, Zara. Reminds me of Matthew Arnold’s “For Marguerite,” except that Arnold’s poem is hopeless — even the sea offers him no respite from his heartbreak. I prefer hope.

    Also, I can’t help but think about the dateline…that in New Zealand, the sea must be more significant that it is in, say, Kansas, and that the stars you’re looking at include many I cannot see.

    • Zara Potts says:

      Thanks Greg, what a wonderful compliment.
      Yeah, the sea is significant here I guess. Maybe it’s just because we are surrounded by a massive ocean on such a tiny sliver of land that gives it that significance.
      And I think you are right about the stars -I don’t know much about astronomy -but I don’t think you guys can see the Southern Cross constellation can you?

      • Greg Olear says:

        The constellations that make up the zodiac rim the equator, and can be seen anywhere on earth. But the ones higher in the respective skies cannot. No Polaris for you, no Southern Cross for me.

        (I only know this because Dominick went through a big astronomy phase when he was two).

  20. Simone says:

    “The longing of the sea to touch, just once, the hem of the horizon.

    That’s gold. Loved that line. So descriptive, I can feel the longing in it.

    Zara, you have such a way with words. This piece was beyond beautiful. When I was reading, I felt an underlying rhythm. Words rocking back and forth with the natural ebb & flow of the ocean’s waves rolling on the shore.

    You keep writing, I’ll keep reading.

    • Zara Potts says:

      Oh Simone! You treasure, you.
      As long as you keep reading, I will definitely keep writing.
      Thank you for your own lovely words.

  21. Irene Zion says:

    You’ve been ready, Zara.
    You just didn’t realize it.
    It’s all around you.
    Embrace it.

  22. Jessica Blau says:


    I am a sea creature, too. But I don’t have a vein in my forehead. Or not that I know of.

  23. This was beautiful, Zara. You, indeed, have a talent for more than just shipwrecks. Be well.

  24. Amanda says:

    Do you know the poem, Diving Into the Wreck? It’s by Adrienne Rich, and it’s wonderful and perhaps, here and there, rather apt.


  25. Dana says:

    “I have been salvaged by the sea.” Gorgeous and evocative. And now I’m longing for the sea.

  26. Zara,

    What lovely lyrical work! I wish Lake Michigan wasn’t half-frozen now…

  27. Marni Grossman says:

    “The only light is the burning tip of my cigarette and the sharp sting of a falling star.” So lovely. Evokes the spirit of you- the romanticism of a falling star matched by the gritty truth of a cigarette butt.

    • Zara Potts says:

      Oh you sweet and lovely girl! I think maybe you have just nailed it exactly. I’m half star, half cigarette! Perfect! Thank you, Marni. And thank you for your own wonderful pieces which encourage my romantic streak…

  28. Awwwww, Z.

    You are a true beauty. I love your vulnerability and the depth you are capable of and willing to share.

    • Zara Potts says:

      I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – You bedazzle my heart, Megan DiLullo. In the shape of a star.

  29. Zara, this is so incredibly beautiful. I am a water baby at heart – my most vivid memories involve water… and I feel like I am constantly exploring this in writing. But you – oh you – have written a love song.

    This line killed me:

    My lips have opened for kisses while the white sea-spray has covered me like a foamy bridal veil. My heart has been broken to the sound of the breakers; the salty scent, a perfume of grief in my mouth.

    Thank you for that.

  30. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    Gorgeous! So much beauty to read, and one of my favorites: “the salty scent, a perfume of grief in my mouth.”

    Years ago, I learned that salt water has the same gravity as blood. The convergence of blood, tears, and the ocean in your piece works on all levels–from science to spirit.

    It’s been soooo long since I went to the beach. I could spend hours with only the sound and the waves.

    Thanks for this loveliness, Zara.

    • Zara Potts says:

      And I thank you for your loveliness.
      That’s really interesting about the salt water/ blood. It makes sense on a cellular level to me. I’m so glad you mentioned this and I’m glad you feel it works in my piece.
      Your words are so kind and I am honoured you leave them for me.

  31. kristen says:

    A beautiful conjuring of that from which we are born and thus recognize, deep down in our core, better than anything, if we just consent to listen…

  32. Alison Aucoin says:

    My childhood backyard was a bayou. In New Orleans, you actually navigate by your relationship to the river as opposed to north, south, east, west. I had many first illicit experiences on the banks of the Mississippi in Baton Rouge. All is about water in the San Juan Islands. And of course, the Bay seeps into your pores in San Francisco.

    This place I’ve lived since Katrina is the only place I’ve ever lived that does not have a body of water as a significant feature.

    Since I’ve been here, I’ve blamed Katrina for my dim disorientation but occasionally I think it’s the disconnection from the rhythm of water.

  33. This is stunning, Zara. I feel speechless. It was not what I was expecting, and it’s knocked me on my ass with its beauty. Wow. Thanks.

  34. Lenore Zion says:

    zara, what a lovely piece. makes me want to stop freaking out for a little while and just breathe. i adore you.

  35. Ducky Wilson says:

    How about stopping at 666? Then you’ll be totally evil, as well as Totally Killer.

    • Ducky Wilson says:

      Hmm. It’s this religious cult that used to have their own tv channel. They may still. I know they still have shows. At any rate, fundamentalists of any sort are bad news. Don’t tune in. I think they can suck your brain out through the airwaves.

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