The Innisfree Poetry Journal

by Nancy Fitz-Hugh Meneely

Reading Signs


Shadows of the dunes

have not yet crept

across the upper beach

but no one's here.

A neon pail, tiny crabs

still scrabbling in its well,

leans inside a furrow

in the sand.


I see the way it went:

At noon the parents walked

and laughed too far,

their fingers greedy

in the children's hair.

The sky flared

and the breeze, salt-

pungent, blew onshore,

pushing mounds of spume

against their feet.

Moaning the cold,

they bullied out

to ride the waves

that excited the skin

on their bellies and thighs.

The children rolled

in the undertow's

pleasurable pull.


By two, the tide's retreat

had left a glimmering

of jellyfish. Tomato sandwiches

had barely served,

the drinks were warm,

the chocolate compromised

by grit. The parents' need

to touch their children's skin,

to hold them small

inside their colored towels,

was satisfied.


By three the sky had widened

until blue was agony,

the wind's insistence

a slender knife.

Something wild hung coiled

inside the children's shouts.

The parents had begun

to stalk the end

of afternoon.


At four the parents

closed their faces up

and left. The children

understood they wouldn't

find them anymore,

condensed themselves,

forgot what shapes they'd been

and disappeared

inside the afternoon. 

Copyright 2006-2012 by Cook Communication