On the beach across the street from the liquor store that’s down the road from the clinic,
A bicycle rusts, bent almost in half,
Useless even to the beggars
And wild children who beg for candy in almost perfect English.
Five steps beyond: nothing below your feet but air, more air,
Air scrubbed clean by salt,
And salt water, blue as a blind kitten’s eyes,
Deep as the world. Turn around, make careful note,
Of the stripped hills, a woman rummaging in a stained steel barrel,
A strip of red fabric caught on a doorsill and slapping the ground,
And tell me why I should not fall backwards.
In the Lenten season they smear ashes on your face,
Dry and gritty beneath the priest’s rough fingers,
And you are told that dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt etcetera.
But they are wrong, we are, at best, smears,
Water with a little dirt to make it interesting. You see this at the end,
When your legs mottle yellow and your ankles swell, and your fingers
Are tight as sausages, and you become
Merely a way for water to walk about.
Around my ankle, taut
With parasite water, I’ve roped the rusty bicycle.
I’ll gift myself to the careful crabs,
Not rot, but dissolve
A little fall, a cold shock,
Stage four.

ChiZine | July 2006