That day the roar of Corpus Christi beaches
muted us, months before the storm flew in,
I saw the terns flame out along the boardwalk,
white in the sun. The beach was scorching, empty,
so we hunted for shells — pursued the alluvial waves
like eager dogs, clawing the helpless foam —
and found three sand dollars the size of nickels.
We lined them on the sand like captured soldiers
and cocked our thumbs, and made demands.
A skein of worsted spins between your hands,
spooling onto the floor. The yellow threads
tremble until you snip them — Atropos
making a sweater for her sister’s baby.
Your eyes are blank: your fingers lack that grace
your mother knitted with, though these are things
that only mothers do well. I walk outside
without a jacket, dark against the frost.
A clock inside my chest goes off.
The terns, on skyhooks, swung above the surf.
Nonviolent now, you retreated to our room.
I found you later, underneath the bed,
the hair about your face like a Madonna,
as if you were declining the invitation
to carry Christ. A cloudbank veered to the east.
The bedroom windows rattled in their frames,
and I crept out to swim, forgetting the tide
was high, and that you wouldn’t follow me in.
Mosquitoes decorate the front screen-door;
a small re dies outside; you move behind me.
The sweater hangs — unfinished — on a chair.
Further inside, the white, clawfoot bathtub
steams like a phosphorus spring, calling you home.
Once, you earned praise from me by standing still,
the praise that hooked my eyes to your marble heel
from beach to beach — a frozen map, a dynasty.
Matthew Ladd is a recent graduate of the University of Florida’s MFA program. His poems and reviews have recently appeared in The Paris Review, West Branch, and Passages North.
First published in Measure, Volume 2 (2007)