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The Second Person

ISSUE:  Winter 1998



The beautiful athletes on the white beach
work out in unison for the camera
this morning, their muscle clothes the colors
of berries, of bright flags and fields growing,
the sun the butter smear of wax on the
coconut palms and health spa’s glass siding.
The camera loves those who never stray far,
who test the torque of their own resistance,
isometric, pure, if multiplied by
enough camp theater to entertain.
Cumulus vapors trim up in the sky
and hold still, white-veined, humid with ocean.


What seems another life—the moon blooming
close in the limbs of the lake willow lit
all the low branches hanging delicate
as nets in the dew coated white in the night.

I wish I said something so beautiful
once in my life. I was that near to sleep.
I was so small in his arms he could brush
back a branch, he could bend beneath branches
to carry me all the way back to camp.
The lantern swung like a star far enough
off through the mist I knew I wouldn’t be
awake when we got there, not in this life.


Even the TV crew come to tape the
rippling athletes seems drawn to the water.
They stand just out of the action behind
big lighting umbrellas adjusting their
gear, palming their brows, or they peer up
to the small banks of clouds which cover then
reveal the sun, radiant, gray, depending.
The aerobics team hasn’t let up. They
step, hop, stretch their bound hamstrings, all the while
smiling to goad each other on. We watch
with the other vacationers steps away.
Some of the crew toss a small frisbee out


to the waves, which catch it, which retrieve it,
white mouth. The others just stare at the sea.
The pull of the water, mysterious,
blank presence of water whatever else
we are, whoever else we want to be,
draws us down as to drink, or as to death.
In the week we’ve been here we’ve done little
but savor each other’s skin, in love, sleep,
or walk the costly sands where pelicans
perch on the pier-posts, wings drawn out to dry.
How strong the bodies of the young, flexing
their arms, pointing toes sunward . . . then higher.


How perfect your breath burned into my breath.
I wish, says the lover pressing the dark—
your body’s sweet waters, silk hairs. We make
love until we are weakened, sore, sated,
carried in each other’s arms as water
loves whatever it carries, as one night
under willows when the lake-wash still lapped
the bank stones slick in the dark where I slept
like a wish in my down bag. This has nothing
to do with me. His arms carried me there.
All night the slow wash of water and sleep.
We make love until our weakness is strength.


The beautiful athletes sleek with their sweat
start to warm-down on the fine sands—the day’s
great star widens, a white hole in the sky.
The waves push all the way up to our feet
and gulls feed on what is laid there, their lives
a little economic of sunlight
and luxurious trash. We must go back
where the world is still washed in the worries
of sorrow and self. I want to keep shining
these words for him, who carried me so far—
water like a light in the vanishing
night. And for you who have carried me back.


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