I didn't know one could lie down
in such swiftly opposing currents.
In the morning, dressed in yesterday's clothes,
it’s, Feelings like a book stolen from a room
that doesn't exist anymore. After coffee
I was thinking: If you don't feel, then who cares?
Love is a hill and when you sleep you
note the slant, the soap falling into the sink.
At sunset, the wheeze of air conditioners
eased, I can no longer ward off thoughts
like legs that push off the wall of the present
to strand me near where the condo sits
(a refuge our estrangement has cost me),
the management desperately trying to regrow
dunes a hurricane bulldozed summers ago
--the season apathy choked out our hopes--
the dunes little more now than forced slopes
littered with signs threatening legal action,
as frequent as sea oats used to be. The nights
thick with storm, I was unable to bring ours on,
afraid to stay or finish: I didn't want the purple horizon
any closer and I wasn't ready to get wet.
When I think of that time, I think mainly of the jellyfish,
weaving like waterclouds around our ankles,
amazed that I was never stung, the sand giving way
under toes where bubbles burst painlessly
against the toughened skin
from tiny-shelled creatures that surfaced for air
and then burrowed in before the next wave
but we were spared, always safe.
And of unquestioned obedience, the hose
on the bottom patio where we were instructed
to rinse our feet before ascending the stairs,
which were green with sand. How futile the effort
seems now, to keep out nature where we had trespassed.
(There was the usual conflict of desires: a wish
to stay under wraps and a need to swim blindly.)
Every glance back sends me reeling, unkind layers
and years unraveling until my mother has fallen down
the basement steps, chest soaked with vomit.
I'll take care of it, I had assured her, not sure
what she perceived in her underwater-like state.
Peeling off her wet gown felt like the times
she had tried to confide in me about her sex
life with my father: I wanted to run from the shame
of her nakedness. (--Why bother, when) She woke
the next day, grey in her eyes like rips in the sky
after rain. A robin sang out her window
like always (a lie), a tired sound,
the kind of warble that barely involves
a rising of the chest, but there was no mention
of what we had come to call The Blackouts.
. . .Faint, I should eat something but I'm not hungry
for what I have in the freezer. With summer
moved in, my appetite has disappeared
as if it were a seagull with a backwards sense
of migration. Not back to Who Am I? but
Where Have I Been?: busy mostly, avoiding
the lies, debris that collects on the bottom
until a storm kicks it up.
You and I fell
into a spin we could not cycle out of (or
didn’t). Losing our foothold, we settled
for cozy deception. You, too, must have
felt the opposite pulls, lit cigarette in hand
on the dark porch, a red glow I used to mark
my departure, the hot tip extinguished
by the time I had passed a first row of houses.
Barefoot in the dark, I struggled, the dry
sand lending me no push. Up ahead
under the cold caress of safety lights, a boy
shouted, unearthing a partial starfish;
other children ran to dig up crabs,
dropping them in pails they would abandon
somewhere between the emptied hotels
and packed cars.
: But recovered memory isn't fact.
(Are you still in the shipwreck?)
It isn't recovery.
Not to be lost to the undertow of empty hours,
I save laundry for the weekends. Pulling up the last load,
I watch our son landlocked in the sandbox, and then
swimming in an inflatable pool with fallen leaves
and drowning beetles for company; I knock over
the diving masks I don't know what to do with
and I can't throw away as if they were
unfinished chapters of a book I can't close.
--Our last morning
there, oppression gone from the ocean air,
the green sky giving over to a sunny blue,
an abandoned speed boat had washed ashore,
the early beach already crowded with onlookers.
We moved to the water with a desire to move together,
as if there were a limit to how far we could let the other
drift, the way we had felt when we had first met. That
afternoon as I lolled weightlessly in the salty waves,
the warm, lemony drink of reconciliation coursing
through my veins, I had discovered three masks:
two adult sized ones and a child's. At sunset,
in the bed you later swore we had conceived in,
we wondered what had happened to the travelers,
believing we had found, perhaps, the only clues
to their disappearance.