We were crossing a wide beach toward a blacktop parking lot. I forget now who I was with or where we were going the year The details of that particular beach vacation that summer break. Morning not long after sunrise the day already hot. In the parking lot six women wrestled a package of sorts Emerged from the side door of an SUV onto the beach carrying A small weight in a blanket like a sling or a makeshift stretcher. Six women one at each corner of the blanket two at the middle. I couldn’t see what was in the blanket when they passed. No one looked at us their expressions solemn touched by grief. They stopped at the water’s edge and a skeletal head rose up Out of the blanket to look over the ocean as legs like sea straw Fell gently to the gentle surf which washed over them. To see the ocean one last time surrounded by friends. August the Georgia coast sand dunes trees permanently twisted Their crowns like long hair in a brisk endless wind blown back. How many mornings have I walked barefoot along the beach? Not enough. Never enough. Summer and heat and the ocean. Dolphins threading waves terns pelicans gulls squawking The salt smell of ocean and the shore stretching for miles All the way back to the beginning and before as if the blue Pool swelling out to the horizon licking wet at our feet is one Body and the waves repeat a heartbeat that won’t cease Unlike our own which will. Dying woman at the water’s edge Carried by friends to be close one more time to the ocean To sand under bare feet to the seashore on a summer morning.
Essay: On Language
The words we use to instill a sense of the ineffable Carry us on a journey that’s mysterious As if your car makes a sudden left turn and accelerates A child in the road leaps into her mother’s embrace A deer becomes a child and you hit the brakes The panjandrum in the driver’s seat this befuddled guy At the wheel of a eighteen-wheeler hurtling down the road. Language. He sat at the table, head in hands after work A long day reminiscent of the day before and before His child on the other side of the table watching him A man given to gaucherie but driven by ambitions A hard worker a laborer who came home at night Greased in paint and sweat, soul tired and hungry. He washed his arms and face and body with kerosene Stripped to his underwear, rinsed off with a garden hose. The boy watches him this brawny bare-chested man Who looks up sees the child and asks “What the fuck do you want?” Says “Get out of here before I beat your ass.” At night in Brooklyn the moon rises above two-family houses. The boy stretches out on the roof and looks down to the street. One evening a young woman a girl appears on a nearby rooftop. She’s barefoot in a white slip with long dark hair to her breasts. In moonlight the slip is lucent and she hovers as an apparition Her feet on the gutter, a gargoyle at her toes before she jumps. Or falls. In the boy’s memory she’s there and then she isn’t. For the rest of his life he carries this moment with him. When his father is dying from cancer (warning: don’t wash With kerosene) he places a hand on his chest to comfort him. His father looks to the ceiling and says “Jesus, Joseph, and Mary! They’re coming for me!” before he takes a growling last breath. The boy is an old man now and dreams this night of his own death. He might prink all day getting ready for nothing or everything. The girl on the rooftop his father at the table the moon and dying All there on his tongue in every word he’s ever spoken or put down On paper or swallowed out of fear or fury. Each syllable a gesture To the dark to the moonlight to that girl on the rooftop to his father To the city to the angels coming for us all to the silence in between.