War and Surgery
Sedated in a haze of anesthetic, my young son lies in wait
holding brave for this, his first surgery—war and tonsillectomy,
his night eyes full of moth-aware transparency.
Outside, flags stand patrol, pasted in every mini-van window,
9/11 only weeks ago, our leaders already drumming for battle.
Candy-colored nurses hover, counting his stuttered heartbeat,
heavy-lidded eyes shuttered in dreams of fighting, severed tonsils
lying fragile in warning, in appeal. The grey sky rains seagulls—
a mourning mass crying ballads for the lost:
boys who wake proud of the way their flesh scars and heals,
the raw ache of their own blood, our wars only just begun,
their bodies enlisted in battles decades yet to come.
San Diego, Blacks Beach
Beach sand and loose-swinging breasts,
dark smudges of pubic hair on tan skin,
buttocks as brown as shoulders,
penises adorned with shells and beach bracken,
hanging loose under the soft rounding of middle-age bellies.
We drop our clothes and laugh at this,
our bodies’ sudden unveiling.
Striated with sun and shadow, we run to the surf,
avoid too keen an eyeing.
Sun highlights the child-stretched scars of my belly
pink and silvery as nipples.
Flies stud kelp’s translucent rubber leaves.
Crabs eat crab carcasses.
Plovers and snipes ply damp sand.
Gulls scavenge beach towel crackers.
Pelicans fly low, wing tips cutting lines.
Naked people, themselves turned shorebirds, preen and strut,
guard nests of towels and their umbrella’s scant shade,
enjoying this flushing of flesh, this uncovering.
Swells beckon, kelp drifting below the surface,
surf breaking like glass.
Birds tuck under cliffs as we couple with the waves,
this long stretch of beach—
bodies, cliffs, sand,
everything the color of skin.
You and me and this salted world of our baring.
Annie Lampman is a creative writing professor at Washington State University Honors College. Her writing has been awarded a Pushcart Prize Special Mention, first place in the Everybody-Writes contest, an Idaho Commission on the Arts writing grant, and a national wilderness artist’s residency through the Bureau of Land Management.