Published on Academy of American Poets (

A Few Lines from Rehoboth Beach

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.


From Do Not Peel the Birches by Fleda Brown. Copyright © 1993 by Fleda Brown. Reprinted with permission of the author and Purdue University Press. All rights reserved.


Fleda Brown

Fleda Brown is the author of ten poetry collections, including The Woods Are on Fire: New and Selected Poems (University of Nebraska Press, 2017) and The Devil's Child (Carnegie Mellon, 1999). Brown served as poet laureate of Delaware from 2001 to 2007. A professor emerita at the University of Delaware, she teaches in the Rainier Writing Workshop, a low-residency MFA program at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. She lives in Traverse City, Michigan.

Date Published: 1993-01-01

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