RACHEL JAMISON WEBSTER
It seems I have to convince myself of happiness,
even here, as we leave lawn chairs and magazines
by the pool, tall glasses of iced tea, to walk along the beach.
Waves gum the shore, seaweed twists and piles
in clumps like hair and we watch silver fish
we don’t have names for thread the shallows
like bits of cellophane. Our feet make
a nursing sound in the sand,
and, way out, a rock juts from the water
like an option we hadn’t thought of.
I want to swim to it with a sharpness
so rare it’s relief. I want the water’s drum and pucker,
its slip through lips and long unbuckling
tendons, our brown heads side by side
and crowning. . . . But you’re not interested,
and why is it I want you to want what I want?
Do I worry desire will loose me
like one of those miniscule eggs,
our life’s unchosen, if you don’t?
I go on, and smoothly, clopping the water
until it’s not at all like I thought,
not rock, not constellate of calcite and shell,
but something softer, swampy—the sodden
trunk of a pole pine gently rolling,
its branches yards behind and under,
hooked in sand. It’s darker than anything else here
on the bonetip of Florida, it’s as far from home
as my stroke, snapping open
a yellow flag of fish now,
scaring two thumb-sized crabs
over the craggy curve of their world.
I slip under, walk my hands along the trunk.
It’s been here long enough to become covered
in black and white barnacles
shaped like small mouths saying, oh.
Come out, I want to show you
the way water rolls the wood
and pours the living centers of the shells.