This is an old poem I wrote that appears in revised form in the Blanket Stories anthology by Ragged Sky Press. It’s inspired by a place I went as a kid, Washaway Beach, Washington.
I've been here before.
On a family vacation
I saw the beach washed away.
We couldn’t drive further.
The highway dove straight into the Pacific,
pavement disappearing under waves.
Chunks of grey concrete,
crumble in the murky surf.
We terrified onlookers witnessed the
broken homes and scattered possessions,
worn-out and weather-beaten.
An empty bathtub, a lifeless bassinet
cradling its driftwood cadaver.
Corroded plumbing stuck out of the sand
like grasping, skinless fingers
pointing desperately towards heaven.
I was ten years old when I saw
those seconds swallowed up.
My home is nothing but a ghost town,
filled with sand. The silent spirits:
those I never really knew,
those who hunted me.
Their death-scent followed me here
as vultures surround me like a halo.
I sit on the shore, the water
darts around my ankles, a new, live birth.
All these grains of sand— uncountable and unaccounted for—
memories I want so desperately to forget,
secrets I know I can no longer keep.
Scatter the remains across the ocean. Walk away.
We will never speak of it again.
I went to your river
at its lonesomeness,
that wildness reflected in
the bingo halls, the Wheeling factories
all empty now.
I looked for your grave
and wished for words.
I thought I heard
something. But it was just
that dirty river, moving past,
keeping its own secrets,
like the dead. I wonder about
my own wasted life.
What can I say to you?
I’ve loved you like no one
else since I first heard
your voice, one dark wing.
Ever since, I’ve searched for you
in truck stops and back alleys,
the polluted waterways of America.
Did you ever really leave Ohio?
When you return, will you find
the same thing as I?
when bamboo flowers, famine follows
those flowers bring the rats
every thirty years or so
the rats devour it all
flooding the landscape
squirming black appetites
bequeathing us disease
we dwelt in phapian paradise
shrouded by our excesses
as the flowers poked carmine noses
out of stalks that lingered
relegated to the garden
gratuitous satanic clockwork
we knew we were doomed when
the bamboo leaked indoors
a suffocating canopy
stalks snaking up furniture
angry roots in the carpet
catching ankles and breaking toes
once it’s here you can never be rid of it
you have to tear it out by the roots
or burn down the damned house
relinquish your sackcloth and gather the ash:
hold it in your cankered hands
it is more precious than gold
it is more filling than dirt
it is more natural than sin