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.