There Are Beaches in Michigan
That soft-cold sand, strewn with sharp iron slag as we walk along the water’s edge, sinking slowly till we reach an abrupt end: sandstone walls painted in wind, a harsh hand stopping the rush of water, the ecstatic air, and later I dream of floating out, captured by the current, watching Grandma on the shore picking blueberries, a child’s pail in the crook of her arm, and the land becomes the thinnest line I’ve ever seen, and her figure fizzles out like a match, and there is nothing but to stare at the sky ’til it swarms blackish blue, nothing but to wait, because I know what happens out on the open water, I know there is always something circling overhead—swallows over fields in summer air; vultures near highways; herons in the marsh; silent hawks; and I wonder what might be watching over me now.
Deanna Baringer is a writer and educator whose work has most recently appeared in Santa Clara Review, Emerge Literary Journal, and Lily Poetry Review. Originally from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, she now calls Pittsburgh, PA home. Find her on Twitter @vardonroad.
A waning heat is in the air.
People sit on wooden promenade seats, inhaling slow moments in time, looking out to where sea and sky meet. We see them, not their eyes. We feel them, not their heat.
All we hear is the lap of little waves and in the distance the babble of children, a fusion of languages, occasional sirens. Scooter horns flow by.
Earlier, we sat watching the sun’s descent, shimmers across water. The gulls were quiet then, settled on sand, waiting for dusk.
The hotel with its small double-bed room, wallpaper curling by uneven window frames, and balcony for one is a few streets back, down labyrinthine cobblestone alleyways. We left all our things there. I said maybe under the pillow. You said the mattress was better. We took only what we wore. A towel between us.
Tonight, we may emerge and walk towards lamp-lit places looking for a small bistro with a daily specials board written in chalk.
It may be one where an elderly couple with each of their names tattooed across the back of the other’s neck work between kitchen and tables and allow locals to bring their dogs.
Pieces of confit de canard will be pulled from tiny bones by glistening fingers and offered down, swallowed whole without sound.
Next door under the gaze of the moon you maybe see into a bar with heat rising from candles and people milling together. There will be the clink of ice cubes in glass, the hustle of hushed and rushed conversations. Just beyond them, three musicians might stroke slow-beat grooves from a bass, a guitar and a tambourine. Two staff, laced with tattoos, low-hanging necklaces and amulets working narrow channels between the music and orders for fresh drinks. The scent of fresh-cut stems in the air.
Now as the sun slips, we stand, walk to the edge, and swim out.
We feel the slow rhythmic beat of our hearts beneath the space playing out before us. Our thoughts become languid yet linked – as if moored to the same place by an unseen rope between us.
We turn to look inland and make out the slow flow of walkers along the beachside lanes with their light jumpers and golden shawls, their close-kept conversations, their thoughts of the paths ahead, their memories of distant days.
We go out further and deeper as the sun edges below shadowed distant hills towards the other side of the earth. Colour drains from the darkening land, becoming charcoal, ashen and slightly out of focus as if born of watercolours.
From beach and streets behind, the sound of people preparing to eat lifts into the early autumn air, above land and sea.
We float in shallow lines between daylight and beyond.
You touch me with a hand.
“Look at the little waves, how they arrive over us. Look at their lines of blue with trailing white crowns. It is as if they are offering themselves and when spent, they relent, turn back and submerge.”
The silence of the sea.
Our skin starts to glow, phosphorescent, nocturnal.
“Let’s not go back until after the café lights come on,” you say as you float on your back, looking up into the deep belly of the sky. “Maybe later.”
I can just make out the line of your body as I tread water.
Two gulls sweep down low just above us. We hear the rustling of their wings as they turn then head up and disappear from sight.
A shooting star falls through an arc of space down towards the horizon.
“And anyway, I can only stand darkness if there are cracks to let a little light in.”
Gavin Haycock is a kiwi who was once a crime reporter, foreign correspondent, business journalist and editor. He lives and works in the UK in business communications in the technology industry. Creatively, he is into short fiction and poetry. His work has appeared in Feral, Spill Words, and a few short & micro-fiction anthologies. He can be found on Twitter at @paperpenrocks.
Gold Birds Singing
The clergy are right about boat blessings,
poinsettias crowded at altars, wax dripping
down, evergreens strung with white lights.
The dogs are right about what they do
for the world: snarl, pull the leash, look
straight through you with shined-coal eyes.
Were the fishermen right to curse the boat
when its owner drowned? To leave it
to rot in the sand? And the plumbers?
They claim it’s too late to fix anything.
Let’s say I’m sleeping. Are dreamers right
about gold birds soaring and singing?
And politicians—are they correct when they
start their own countries so they can be kings,
chancellors, prime ministers? The children
are right, surprisingly, when they crayon
walls. They color tigers, magic wands,
girls tall as they are with purple eyes, beaded
purses, glowing shoes. The ghosts are not
wrong to seek someplace hospitable. There’s no
shame in death. It’s natural. The walkers
are right to take shortcuts through snow,
singing a little under their breath. And the tides
are right. They have to do it: rise and then fall.
Bells in the Heights
Ice comes down in invisible increments,
in rackety scratching on window glass.
A sowbug runs from a burning log,
flaming, shuddering. Darkness
swallows an empty church.
Inside in the dark ragged flowers
bend away from their heavy vases.
Bells in the heights scour the darkness.
I don’t know what the suicide said
after he hung up the phone, which gun
he used. He stares out of a photograph,
kneeling behind a pickup, the first buck
he killed on the ground beside him.
I go upstairs, wrap myself in blankets,
shut my eyes as if I still lived inside
my mother, held in a cage of bones.
Barbara Daniels’s Talk to the Lioness was published by Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press in 2020. Her poetry has appeared in Cleaver, Faultline, Small Orange, Meridian, and elsewhere. Barbara Daniels received a 2020 fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.
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