Laura Parker Roerden

Pelagic Waters

Laura Parker Roerden

Pelagic Waters

Go to open ocean, I heard,
as I had spent too much time struggling


on the edges in the surf.
There is only one way to climb


out of the grave of a riptide.
All lifeguards know this.


You must swim parallel in deeper water.
You must give up the safety of heading for shore.


Pelagic water is where you’ll find
your agency. Where the bottom that drops out


beneath you is a relief from striving.
In open water, you no longer orient


to the rocks or sand or sky. You must begin
a long dive within to mark your spot on any chart.


You must give up the idea of destinations and float on your back
to calm a fraught heart, even as you imagine


what lurks beneath might be something bent on harm.
As you breathe, each draw is a deep pull down


to the wave trough of awareness.
This is all. You will find an inner landscape has just as many


reference points as land. Only now you will navigate
by memory, by sensation, naming feelings as if


plotting pushpins, with paper giving way with ease.
Yes, this pelagic water is where you’ll find fragments


do not fall like shards of glass or dried flowers
or dust; but instead flutter and fold as one,


revealing shade as merely depth or night
and shape as the other side of dawn.



Photos courtesy of

Laura Parker Roerden

Writer, speaker, and conservationist Laura Parker Roerden is the executive director and founder of Ocean Matters, a nonprofit that supports youth to boldly save the wilds. Laura formerly served on the board of directors of the New England Aquarium’s Women Working for Oceans (W20). She is currently on the board of Earth, Ltd., and she is a member of the Pleiades Network of Women Leaders in Sustainability.

Pelagic Waters

Laura Parker Roerden