Mary Ann Mayer
Notes On a Romantic Barrier Beach


This beach is a kind of code.
The painters, with their bristles
Are at it.

Their children muck the tide line,
Collecting whatever has fallen
Through the sieve of the sea.

A poet jumps the sea wall,
Smells the flux of brine and
Sweet rugosa, hears
A kind of music.

But it's Sunday, and too pretty.
It's pretty as a picture.
The narrow sand spit curving,
Too seducing to the eye.

Sand curves between two givens
Pretty bay, strutting ocean
Inclined between
Adorable view and
Salty syllabic thump.

The painters flick their wrists, reeling in
Their still-lives, while
Children run freely,
Dizzy between
The realms, fighting

Over a creature pulled from the kelp
A blue-clawed limpid thing. 
Startled from her easel,
One mother calls,
Stop fighting, it's too pretty! 


Why do I possess
Shells for ears, songs half-formed?
When I'm on the brink of hearing,
And I always lose touch 
Of what I mean.

Sometimes the painters scare me.
Their light and sky, their tactics
Turning out so well, and true,
While visions brush off me like sand.

Maybe I envy them
On the level with sunlight,
Their square claims staked,
Packing up seductions, one after another
On an ordinary beach.

Gulls scream a noisy feast
Against the grain of light and chop.
The bay giggles up the sand
In fingers, softening the minerals.

Answering the moon,
The timbre and the subtle
Waters from one side and the other
Rising now, mingle, overlap the spit.

In my melting landscape,  
I am thirsty as sand.


"Nude With Yellow Hair" (detail)
Digital painting by Anne-Marie Levine. Click for full image.