We’ve got seaweed in our hearts, said Bridget and Lev and Stanislaw all at once. They did this to see how the strangers would react. They’re very rare, these sea creatures. They have spent their entire lives in rock cracks along the seacoast below the high tidemark from California to Alaska. They’re very rare with their abdomens exposed. Sub-cylindrical, long-legged and black, you would never have guessed their appearances from their names. They’ve each come from parents with complicated histories and a sense of adventure.
Miraculous with tears, Bridget salts her eyelids with regret. She’s left another lover and the horizon is barren. Lev comforts her, but does not sympathize. He’s been alone for months but for a brief dalliance and hasty departure. Stanislaw is sleeping, his feet twitching in the sand.
I am I, gone numb and desolate, moans Lev to lighten the mood. Stanislaw snores, the tide beginning to nip at his toes. Bridget humphs, not sad enough for her own drama.
I do not intend to play a minor character, screeches Bridget. That too would be rare, answers Lev. Stanislaw snores and snores.
Meanwhile the ocean approaches with its load of foreigners all shrunk down to the tiniest of considerations. Fragility folds and reappears as complicity. The whole train rolls in and stuffs a little salt water up Stanislaw’s nose.
Now twists of kelp snakes are wandering in on the becoming, the part that sweeps the tide. A bottle with its head gone announces blue in the surf. A hook with its fishing pole gone floats in on a plank with no remaining sign of its friendships.
A wafer of evening dampens, reddens and stretches out from the west and back again. The beach is empty. The sky is empty. The people who could have been here are empty of ambitions. Only the shadows are busy, linking hands and pretending they have not always been waiting inside the water, folding once more upon the shore and opening. Night too rolls in and stretches until it quietly snaps and a damp wafer falls across the sky as clouds.
Rich Ives has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Artist Trust, Seattle Arts Commission and the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines for his work in poetry, fiction, editing, publishing, translation and photography. He is the 2009 winner of the Francis Locke Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander and the 2012 winner of the Thin Air Creative Nonfiction Award. His books include Light from a Small Brown Bird (Bitter Oleander Press–poetry), Sharpen (The Newer York—fiction chapbook), The Balloon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking (What Books—stories), Old Man Walking Home After Dark (Cyberwit-poetry), Dubious Inquiries into Magnificent Inadequacies (Cyberwit-poetry), A Servant’s Map of the Body (Cyberwit—stories), Incomprehensibly Well-adjusted Missing Persons of Interest (Cyberwit—stories), and Tunneling to the Moon (Silenced Press-stories).
Artwork: Lara Zankoul and Elie Khater, Genesis