The Sand Dancers

In a faded photo, they dance on shore,
two kids we were, scuffing up bursts of sand;
hands rise and fall in a rapid step-slide-spin

on bumpy sand hills, seawater creeping closer
and no matter: wearing swimsuits, mostly bare,
they shimmy, high as gulls on one another,

and unaware they’re skipping on a grave.
Death’s relics gleam in sun, unrecognized:
the black skull, once a horseshoe crab;

the jellyfish with blood red intestines;
barnacles stuck fast on eyeless stones
and nodding at them like beheaded saints;

a cracked, abandoned temple of a razor clam;
chartreuse hair rising when waves recede;
all icons to commemorate the drowned,

shipwrecked in the shallows off this coast,
voyagers and whalers, catch-fisherman.
Instead the two join hands and swing out, rollicking,

moonwalk on rocks sea-polished into eggs
and fixed like pebbles visitors set on markers.
Fresh as sea foam, bright as the break and shuffle

of a long wave gone white before it roars,
its turbulence their only orchestra,
how could they know the years would sail them

past this mud-drenched glow? Private losses,
public wars, together, apart, together?
Now it’s heel-toe, as if they didn’t hear

the clink of a buoy warning of danger
as the chill wind lifts a wave’s underbelly
to gather force and strike in its time.

Grace Schulman is the author of the collection of poems Without a Claim, and is Distinguished Professor of English at Baruch College, CUNY. Her poems, essays, and translations have appeared widely in journals here and abroad.
tags: Poetry, Poetry & Fiction   
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