by Cleopatra Mathis

Tide out, rank odor rising
on the heated rocks. Tiny fish trapped between the boulders
dragged in from Maine, mica shining in the cracks’
crevices where the foot grabs, holding me up
as I rush on through, as the laughing gulls laugh

and the clouds blur. I choose this trip out, knowing
September’s full tide, pushing it all away in the challenge
of the waiting chain of rocks, the curving tail of the cape.
What’s in my feathered head but refusal?

Then I’m running hard in the deserted dunes.
Fresh tracks, I see, lead in and around to the lighthouse
for years now deserted, boarded-up.
Oh how I love and fear
the sprawled letters across one side: Caterina Mollino for ever.

Forever my own holding on—easy to blame
the coyotes for sending me back to the breakwater,
not the fact of the man who is not waiting and will not wait,
every brilliance out there going dark
in the great irony of my not seeing.

Easier to face the dead stuff
on the rocks, the slippery hold, the greeny detritus
hiding the barnacles, all manner of the parasitic,
because clinging is what it knows to do—
and my swearing never to go there again, that balancing act
in the tide washing back up.

Published on July 23, 2011