January absolves the village.
Summer left no flags. I'm living
just now alone in a room on stilts:
Whatever silts this way
is what I've got.
It's clean. Even the fake flowers
somebody left outside are stripped
of pretensions. They bloom
nocolor, original plastic.
Perhaps I am here to practice.
Every night I sleep like the drowned,
And dream these houses break and sail
on perfect silence into the world's
dreams of vacant houses.
Every morning's drydock light
establishes them again on their bad knees.
Miles under a blue sun,
sand in my shoes, a heavy parka on:
these are the times the child whispered
I'm the only one.
Swimmers went out once, so many,
and never reached back.
I'm learning the stroke, stroke,
afloat and purposeful along the paths
following a wind full of gulls and grackles.
This is my sandfinger, my blue light with birds.
We talk a cold tongue, and the tide's
good to us all: here's that plain
stretch I never believed, all bone
and shell, lost gull feathers,
old, washed empty claws:
this perfect weather.
Betty Adcock is the author of seven books of poems, most recently Rough Fugue. For a review, please see Current Book Reviews in this issue.
"Topsail Island" is reprinted with the permission of the author, from Nettles, LSU Press, 1983.