Crouching on a long-shore bar,
I watch hairy-chested men
with a shovel, grill grate and lighter fluid
dig a pit in the curving barrier island.
A glow emerges
as the midsummer sun fades
behind the dune ridge.
Children in dripping bathing suits run
in along the tidal flats to join
the tribal gathering.
I feel the radiating heat on my ankles
from the white hot coals.
Ground beef patties
imbued with chopped red onion,
garlic powder and tongue-tickling season salt,
on paper plates covered with foil
on tailgates of Suburbans
parked backwards in a semi-circle
like an armada of covered wagons,
are now audibly searing on the open flame,
rapacious faces illuminated by firelight
in anticipation, the continual beat of humanity
by the edge if infinity
as the deep blue sky gives way to black.
Sand burgers have the taste of eternity
after Gulf winds have kicked up mud blanket grit,
we eat them with our hands
and don’t mind if drops of grease roll
down our bronzed arms.
The rhythmic ebb and flow
of smooth, round, symmetrical waves
can wash us clean.
But the terrigenous particles of
quartz, feldspar, and garnet that
we have unwittingly delighted in,
washed down over millennia from the Rio Grande,
the Colorado, the Brazos are now
forever part of us.
Nothing can separate us from the siliceous
grains of diatoms and radiolarians that
wind has blown into our charred meat
from the timeless face of the shore.
Bradley Stephenson is a retired attorney living in Burlington, Vermont. He is a native Texan and his writing is shaped by gulf coast beaches, hardscrabble hill country, and the Chihuahuan desert. He has advocated for disability rights and increased federal funding for neuromuscular disease research.