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At Dawn Beach

Donna Baier Stein

We soon decide they are lovers:
an older man
whose hair retreats
from his forehead
like shy waves abandoning the shore
and a second, younger and blond,
who sits close and cocky in
trunks slick as a black spill.

The older dons a towel bunched
like rabbit ears
to protect his tanned and oiled head,
then bends to wipe sand from his small toes.
The youth watches, his face
a jumpy portrait of ambivalence--
with that mixed look of
love and impatience only old friends
and spouses wear.
He presses one firm finger
into his old lover's arm
--leaving a white spot the size of a dime--
and points.

The light in the Antilles is strong
so what they stare at we soon see:
a thin-necked bird--white--
with a pointed orange beak.
The bird walks on two sticks-for-legs
across a spot of green foliage,
carefully moving first one foot then the other
toward the sand that slopes to the sea.
His steps press the leaves lightly
as the local Passaat breeze,
leaving barely a trace.

My husband and I glance at each other,
wordless,
and before we return to our books
our heads turn as one down the beach
where men thrust umbrella poles into white sand
and women's bare breasts flop like burst balloons
upon their burning bodies.

They all want what we want--and what our two
lovers want--but seem to show it more.
Even a gentle touch can leave a firm white
print, the bruise of a coin in the heart.


Copyright ©  Donna Baier Stein
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