How have stranger and fear come to mean
the same thing? Last Monday morning
I walked north toward glass beach,
shoreline where middens have been pummeled
into jewels. Red the rarest, indigo
most prized. There is a bulkhead close by,
driftwood piled and lashed to keep a rough sea
from stealing the sloping land. As I neared
this landmark, I saw a man, unexpected
trespass where I had planned to scavenge.
I could make out unshaven middle-age,
camo jacket, backpack awkward and worn. He
had not yet seen me, busy with his walking
stick, turning over sea stone, stooping
to consider the shambles underneath.
Suddenly he stood and faced me.
My startled mind electrified with warning
after warning about the fate of women
walking alone. No escape up the sliding
bluff. No refuge out at sea. I am not
young. Neither especially weak
or strong. His posture seemed a silhouette
of menace, defending his right to the bounty
of solitude. I turned back with no broken glass
except the mirror of an encounter
ingrained with fear keeping me a stranger
from all I had expected to find.

Joanne M. Clarkson’s fifth poetry collection, “The Fates” won Bright Hill Press’ contest and was published in 2017. Her poems have appeared recently in American Journal of Nursing, The MacGuffin, Paterson Literary Review and Poetry Northwest. She lives with her husband in Port Townsend, WA. See more at: