Walking Along the Beach
What’s wrong about self-pity, anyway?
— Elizabeth Bishop
My thin jacket is no match
for San Francisco. The cold
barks its way up my back.
It’s sunset without a sun —
just a low-hanging gray going
lower. The orange shoulders
of Golden Gate Bridge shrug
in the fog. The breathing Pacific
wears me out, lifting and falling
like a belly… you call late,
always too late, with that drop
in your voice when you say hey.
A single syllable stuffed
with sorries. Splayed on the sand
a rubbery seaweed, recently
abandoned, covers its face
with a shell. That I understand.
Doesn’t everyone? People
come and go though it seems
they’re mostly going.
Who hasn’t become an expert
at the art of farewell? My glasses,
an old prescription, are cloudy
with salt. A strong wind holds seagulls
as they surf the air. I’m envious.
How has my day been? The waves break
their dishes and throw the shards
in my direction. That kind of day.
Summer Evening, Age 12
The front porch turns orange at sunset, its color broken
by the curved shadows cast by the cane-backed chairs.
The boy leans forward in his father’s rocker to halt the sweat
running down his back. Inside the house his family lives
side by side in ordered rows like the scooped out places
in ice cube trays. It’s nearly 9 p.m. and still the temperature
is in the nineties. Humidity crawls its heavy body across
the darkened yard. Like velvet drapes, night finally falls.
Cicadas sew their whirring in the lining of the trees.
The fireflies are thousands of children wandering the air —
they hold aloft their flashing questions: why? why?
The warmed grass calls — the boy goes and lies on its steaming
greenness, resting his head on his interlaced fingers.
He watches the sky stretch and lift its shirt to cool itself.
And there, the puncture of the crescent moon. He hears it
whisper: climb up to me. Leave it all behind. Climb all night.
Bart Rawlinson received the 2013 William Matthews Poetry Prize. He has also received the Joseph Henry Jackson Literary Award and the Robert Browning Prize in Dramatic Monologue. His work appears in Asheville Poetry Review, One, The Rumpus, Santa Clara Review, Assaracus and other magazines. He lives in rural California.