Summer is a day. The terns swirl
on the wind, letting it toss them
this way and that, then
dive—their bodies arrow
into the shallow waves.
A pair of urns on the mantle
twined with a Japanese floral pattern,
a delicate pink petal—
Each day I listen through closed eyes
to the waves lick the beach,
the sun kaleidoscoping bright shapes
inside my lids. One daughter fills a bucket
with periwinkles, then
empties it into the surf.
One daughter kicks on a towel in the shade
of an enormous umbrella,
dazzled at the movement of the air.
My grandmother came here
fifty-two more summers
after her daughters died. Even now
in the leaning garage
stand their small bicycles.
This wind. These pressed flowers
falling out of the old hardbound
Robinson Crusoe, Just So Stories—
their weightless drift to table.
This day. This hour. The mossy shingles
by the outdoor shower. This light.
Summer is a day. In my grandmother’s last year,
my mother asked me to take the paper
and wipe as she held the frail woman
above the toilet bowl. Her body had reduced
to sinew, slack. Her cotton pants billowed
around her knees. Her long hair fell
in a thousand wisps around her face,
too fine to be held in the braids the children
still each morning wound around her head.
I had never been asked to minister.
I had hardly touched her in years.