The Amon Liner Poetry Award SEPTEMBER

Fall 2008: Issue 84

Ashley Barnett

A tropical storm grows in the Atlantic with your name.

We listen to warnings on the radio as we drive to the shore,

passing boarded-up houses and closed storefronts.

The tourists head west, crowding the highways out of town,

and we move through the empty streets faster than

we have all summer, arriving at an abandoned beach.

I watch you smoke a cigarette without using your hands,

your lips holding it in the corner of your mouth, the same way

your father smokes. You wait for what the storm brings in,

schools of baitfish and the bigger fish that eat them,

while I walk the tide line looking for unbroken shells.

When I stop and look back, I’ve wandered so far away from you

that I wonder if you have noticed. I am so far away

that it looks like the waves will eat you before I can get back,

but with each step you are still there, your hair tangled with sand.

The heron we feed returns, but the hermit who lived

in the army bunker back in the estuaries is dead, killed

by a group of drunks. We can see his boat from here,

tied to the dock, resting in the bay. I don’t know if anyone

will bring it in before the winds come. The same hounds

always ghost on my corner, but I can’t tell the difference

between instinct and anxiety. I find salvation in these mornings,

waking with you on threadbare sheets, returning to the water,

but we drift away from each other. I think it is a problem.