They Went To The Beach To Play
CNN July 17, 2014
:late heat, the sea, the edge of August
under a waning gibbous moon,
the stage for you, eleven, to
practice-kick before the school term
begins and books take you out of
childhood into that new state so
unlike this of cousins shouting
on a beach in Gaza. Block, Run,
kick, until the fisherman’s hut
blows up and the four of you sprint
for cover. O Mohamed, who
will be a boy forever passing
a ball, on the beach, in summer.
When he described what they did to the old man, to the children
When he confessed his part, how like delirium it was
When he explained while it was happening, the half-forgotten voice
Mary of sister Mary Claire stood guard at his left shoulder
and his arm rose and fell and rose again of its own accord
When he reported how it rained for weeks and his wet feet stayed wet
and fungus got one toe and how his body felt the same but never
was the same and how for decades after he burned the spoon.
When he related everything, it was years later, miles away from any delta
and I don’t remember
what I whispered, in what soft vernacular,
what lexicon of absolution I decided on to comfort him,
what common speech I used to hide from what I pictured then.
The Matter at Hand
Alfalfa in Levis, a backpack and Birkenstocks, his blond hair stood straight up. He didn’t look like someone any of us knew when he first came around the club but he expected better and we got used to him and missed him after he sobered up and drove away to Tulsa.
When we saw him again, he looked like his feet hurt, like bad dope and bad business. His head looked like a block of wood. His cheeks puffed out and burned with unnatural brown. The mortician must have put on that coffin-makeup with a trowel. He should have been buried naked and barefoot he was that swollen. They said the undertaker had to cut the back of his suit and shirt to get him in. They say his socks never fit. The matter at hand consisted of praying, Lord! Lord!
That was October with no light in the universe when we drove out 62 West in our tight dresses and cheap shirts to lower him down and we weren’t near grateful enough it hadn’t been us. We should have fallen to our knees, Lord! Lord! Instead we wandered the cemetery, thick with self-pity, reading the graves.
Wendy Taylor Carlisle lives and writes in the Ozarks. She is the author of two books and three chapbooks, most recently Persephone on the Metro (Mad Hat Books, 2014). See her work in Concis, Mom Egg Review, the Kentucky Review and others. Check her website at www.wendytaylorcarlisle.com.