At Wildwood Beach
by Ann Howells

It's summer. Our dusty orb revolves slowly on its axis, angled into sunslant
for maximum absorption; its thin, dark skin blisters and cracks.
All day I stand idle,
waiting once again for magic to tumble into my life--the mythical poor fisher
who nets a spangled, articulate carp, is granted three wishes--some jar
or cache pot that once uncorked bathes me in exquisite joy,
balm of deliquescent star
and moonglow. Boys pass on the sidewalk and in bars, tawny,
with sunlit eyes, and streaked, dark hair cropped, caressing shoulders, or bound,
tickling muscular backs. They are not for me, but for others like themselves--
eyes light in recognition--vagrant souls whose angel smiles belie
their vacuous nature. I settle at a table, its gaudy parasol tilted
against the slanted rays of evening: world washed gold, then rose,
then amethyst.
The boys
stretch and yawn--lazy, sybaritic felines, pampered and well-fed--slink into shadow
with alley toms. Their discordant love calls provide night music, background
against which all conversation, all barter takes place. What have I to offer
but a drowsy, whiskeyed murmur and sweetness of intent--
it is not enough. On the walk home I spy a lucky penny, bend to retrieve it.
But, it is embedded in the walkway, mere illusion. I scrabble for it
until my fingertips are raw.

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