Dear friend, you were right: the smell of fish and foam and algae makes one green smell together. It clears my head. It empties me enough to fit down in my own skin for a while, singleminded as a surfer. The first day here, there was nobody, from one distance to the other. Rain rose from the waves like steam, dark lifted off the dark. All I could think of were hymns, all I knew the words to: the oldest motions tuning up in me. There was a horseshoe crab shell, a translucent egg sack, a log of a tired jetty, and another, and another. I walked miles, holding my suffering deeply and courteously, as if I were holding a package for somebody else who would come back like sunlight. In the morning, the boardwalk opened wide and white with sun, gulls on one leg in the slicks. Cold waves, cold air, and people out in heavy coats, arm in arm along the sheen of waves. A single boy in shorts rode his skimboard out thigh-high, making intricate moves across the March ice-water. I thought he must be painfully cold, but, I hear you say, he had all the world emptied, to practice his smooth stand.
Afternoons at the Lake
I would rather be trapped in an attic with rats than play Monopoly all the afternoons it takes to lose the last of my money to the already superrich 1 percent grandchild, to line up cheap green houses on my low-rent Baltic and Mediterranean Avenues in a futile attempt to collect enough to survive the next round of rent on Boardwalk or Park Place, to feel pitiful gratitude when I Receive for Services twenty-five dollars. Everything will be gone, save the smallest denominations, the Asian crayfish will overrun the native, the autumn olive will proliferate, the tallest thing will grow taller, will be layered with gold, will turn to gold, will harden its gold heart. It will squander, jet, pocket, dole, win past wanting to win, dig the mine shaft, the ore, eat up the hillside, the birds, the whales, crack the foundations of houses, force the defaulters into the street. Dice will land as they will, will cause the tiny car to bounce happily from St. James Place to Indiana Avenue, a galaxy of gobble, will enable the placement of flamboyant hotels on the coast where waters wash with exquisite music shoreward, all of it owned by the God who dwells inside the winning, who has not said otherwise yet, who owns Free Parking and Jail, who owns the treeless board, the classy neighborhoods as well as the ones with the rats and smashed-out windows, the murderous scrawl of languages on walls, the smiling God holding the center with top hat and cane, as I at last step out on the dock with my coffee and say to myself the lines where Keats rhymes “think” with “nothingness do sink.”