In steamy July, we walk at deep low tide, my friend and I,
stepping and splashing along tidal flats towards the bend of beach
covered with slimy brown stuff biologists say is simply algae, red algae.
It doesn’t smell so bad, I opine, because King’s Beach can stink,
especially in summer. It wasn’t this way, I tell my friend
when 17th century settlers arrived from King’s Lynn, Norfolk.
Henry VIII had scooped up Bishop’s Lynn on England’s coast. King
over Bishop, he royally liberated his country from the clergy and salvaged
their princely properties: be-jeweled chalices, gold-threaded vestments.
Even then, a plague worked its way through the land. Dissenters fled
England to settle a land teeming with promise and seemingly theirs
for the taking. The indigenous people? a tawdry complication.
Daring to bore my friend, I’ve spread the margins of our beach walk
as we confront the seawall, fortress-like in grey cement. Above it,
a cerulean sky and drifting cumulus. She takes over, telling her stories
and waving her hands as if orchestrating the clouds.
She wears a big-brimmed hat, a long-sleeved shirt, and cotton pants
that balloon in the wind. She’s been burned
in the past: two husbands, two wrenching break-ups, two children.
She speaks fondly of her children and their children, a life of attachment.
A rich life. I have no children, no extensions of myself
in other physical bodies, my husband gone now four years, my life
with him less and less potent as I simply endure, having refused to throw
myself on his funeral pyre. He was cremated, but out of sight,
too incredible to witness, worse to imagine as I cursed myself
for not retrieving his wedding band. How he loved it, refused
to take it off, its simple gold melting into his ashes.