Behold me, finally beholden to the sea-
shell, the retrograde ultrasound in my ear.
The ocean’s baby-making R&B impedes
her sleep. We shower together to shed
the silt from our shape. Her sex
was a bottled ship, invigorating the way
lightning never was. I’ve grown
fond of the modesty of honest dreams,
how water discarded in a fountain subsists
on tips disguised as wishes. Vacation always
favors the inflatable. After sharing a flourless
tort, she licks her fingers and thumbs
through the encyclopedia of anxieties
tucked under her sunburnt arm. I nose closer
to the field guide in her cleavage.
She reminds me of my mother
and my sister, though she won’t mother
like my sister, who spells out D-E-A-D,
to protect her four-year old from decomposing
gulls on the island adjacent our rental. God
proctors her spelling bee. I’ll place faith
in what raised me: context, a father like thunder
to a swimming pool. The Pavlovian cuteness
of my niece’s elocution irrigates my eyes—
its pitch, chipmunked; the question, embedded:
Who sped up this record? History is a gift
shop that keeps on giving up the ghost.
The drag shouldering the Atlantic curls home
like the smile my brother-in-law stomached
after their miscarriage. Ask any woman
in Marblehead, the names of the dead
make better door adornments than storm windows.
I can’t help but fret about the wind’s contempt
for my hair. Am I ready? My heart flinches
like the shoreline in a snifter of whiskey.
I pray forgiveness. Her body has always been
the temple mine isn’t. No compromise without
promise: if she dips her toe in first, I’ll fish
for the right word. Bathwater is a relative term.