Long Beach Island
As a child, I feared the ocean, waited
for storms to turn the water navy, push
seaweed and knickknacks, an empty
wallet, a broken bottle, to the high tide mark.
The next day, I would pile shells, call them castles, atop
the dunes. My vocabulary did not include the word defile.
I made sunburnt pilgrimages
to the wreck of a schooner once dashed
to pieces on the sandbar. The island has grown around it
with sandy disregard. Sun stripped grass sprouting between its boards.
My mother and her sisters shake their heads
at the hull, clucking about the passage of time.
Now I am grown. No one checks to make sure my nose
has not become a tomato in the sun. I sit with the other girls
and toast on my towel, until my itching legs
drive me down the beach to the decaying mast.
There I strip, and trusting the imprint of my toes to the shoreline,
follow the tightrope of foam until I stand thigh deep
in the water, nicked legs stinging with salt.
If I stay here long enough the ocean will give me up.
My favorite souvenir is a yellow rain jacket that I brought on a whim while studying abroad in France. Right as I stepped out of the shop it started to pour and didn't stop all weekend. We were visiting some of my host-relatives for the holiday weekend in a particularly rainy part of the country and while we were standing in the boulangerie line on Sunday my host mom told me that I looked like a native. Now if only I could speak like one too...