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.