Remembering the Ocean
I remember the ocean when it
cleansed me, leaving only mussel shells,
stones, seaweed clinging to my legs,
smooth lozenges of opaque brown glass,
like salty versions of Grandma’s cough drops.
Zinc white gulls wheeled above waves
slapping the shore like a metronome
I would feel in dreams miles inland.
I know. The glass came from
beer bottles tossed in the ocean.
They hit concrete waves and shattered.
Further inland riders threw soda cans
past apple trees, past scenic views.
Even then trash bobbed beyond Sunday
boaters and strongest swimmers. Cruise ship
passengers did not look, seeing only
sparkling cocktails and champagne. Everyone else
flew above, imagining the plastic patches
to be new islands to discover
sometime or other but not yet.
I look out this fourth-floor window
to see the cathedral’s white dome.
Perhaps it cleanses, unlike the ocean,
that mirage so many miles away.
The Social Work Assistant in Briarwood
In another life,
you lived here, place
that time and the city
would become mute here.
Too thick to speak,
words clogged your throat. You could
breathe. You swal-
lowed mustard greens, blue
cornbread, his truth.
You drank coffee. You just
did not talk.
Radio stuck on
the Sixties, sun squee-
zing through tiny panes,
you wrote notes.
You drank Diet Pepsi.
You ate slices of
pudding cake. Your husband
talked. Your friends
did, too. Leaves and thorns
grew over glass.
The sun turned back. Only
of its touch remained.
Written in the brilliant corner
of a living room, his poems
once climbed up the wrought-iron
bookcase, past his father’s albums,
past his friends’ books, past his daughter’s
picture to the world beyond.
There his words still breathe, racing
like raindrops down a summer window,
rising like smoke from the last century’s
jazz clubs, mingling with the notes
that Monk and Parker had played.
Tonight, at the crowded cafe,
a young musician sits at the piano
in front of the painted skyline
that appears to be New York,
not the city of parking lots outside.
Like the leaves from street trees,
the man’s notes shake free in the wind.
Brilliant colors scatter without
anyone to write them down.