SEPTEMBER, THE CAPE

Wellfleet, at their grandfather’s

two perfect horseshoe crabs
adorn the table
of the uninhabited house
while he’s in Florida

in the fridge, Heineken dark
“your surprise” – available across the highway

Wellfleet and just think
oysters or the saltmarsh

sunlight breaks through
my desire to travel lighter than this
unlike the children

an array of silver cups, a blinding turn
the chameleon hiding nowhere
but itself or the air, last week:
“You don’t look happy these days”
also: “What do you want from me?”
how I wish I could answer the latter

pine / oak / locust scrub
“tick country”                        even the lawn

tiny green acorns
dry cranberry bushes, as part of the groundcover

in his yard                              }           in the house
sand everywhere                               the arranged ginger jars
the grass brown                                his collection
with pine needles                             Rookwood Pottery, at least
the book

patch of mussels, each one the size of a pea

round brick
worn by the ocean

of course if we lean back, even nearly at shoreline
the water’s over our heads

water taller than I am
is the problem

or water that sweeps you
off your feet in this ocean so clear
we see fish swimming past us – one
a striper two feet long, the other a cod,
halibut, mackerel – I don’t know fish, really
bigger than my daughter beside me
just days past twelve

what kind of life has this been?
with flashes of brilliance, just enough
remaining for harvest

her knife, sharp and long

sailing into the wind
repeatedly, returning and now
through the years

windowpanes
two over two
traditionally
live our lives

one, in a denim jacket
while the other, in a blue swimsuit
nap in clear breeze

I wonder how people fall asleep in the sun
in chairs, at that

Rachel, my wife, informs me of changes
how so much has overgrown now
she no longer sees the saltmarsh or cove
from the dining room, even traces
of Reenie’s garden have vanished

ever dutiful, busily Rachel thins hostas and day lilies
where Grandpa has taken an ax to their roots
“and I came to the Cape for this?” but the motion
grounds her in a way the surf grounds me

blue sky, blue ocean
warm water compared to Maine
choppy surf “knocks a child over”
happened once and now Rachel won’t
bring them back here but prefers
bayside, where the water’s warmer

I believe her, yet

when we walk the road to the Atlantic full on
she observes
overgrowth around cottages and houses
is often quite pronounced
to go with the windswept, cracked gray of dunes cabins
and the ever present shake siding

all night, all day
the highway mocks
the surf’s rhythm

in the swells with Megan, she snarls
“I thought you said it was warm”
“warmer than Maine!”
and laments the waves aren’t bigger
though they knock us off our feet and
fill our suits with small gravel
(viz Grandpa’s bathroom floor after her shower)

turning overcast, trying to spit rain
cool, too
no swimmers but three dozen surfers in one stretch
kids sledding on the dune cliffs
30 feet, maybe, the low spots
100 in others

a seal, faroff, away from the surfboarders
feel the sun now, too much on my face

wind and wind gong
fiddler crab and mussels
the saltmarsh tide turning
chalk and slate outside the general store

oak, pine, and locust trees
a mole scurrying along the foundation

all these beachcombers
tomorrow expect no one
after the weekend

“we’ll take you back”
the waves cackle and rage

will the kid ever learn, packing a whole suitcase for herself
(too much and still no swimsuit)
for a short trip?

 

morning water cold but great breakers,
a great workout, knocked over, body slams –
lose my trunks once, saved at the ankles
fortunately, out of season

surf calms but still choppy, very windy
a seal head appears, just briefly

Sunday morning, clearly the last swim of the season
a record amount of rain for the month
Hurricane Wilma decaying offshore
kicked up quite a show here

twenty-foot swells crashing on the rocks

Poem copyright 2016 by Jnana Hodson
To see the full set of seacoast poems,
click here.

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