Dennis Maulsby

BEACHES

IWVPA Double Tap Award for War Poetry: November 18, 2009
Awarded: November 18, 2009
Parting long strands of sea oats,
grandfather and grandson slide down the dune’s face.
Sloped sugary sand sifts between sandaled toes,
heels slip, arms swing out to keep their balance.
The loose cloth of their wind breakers flaps
in the cool salt breeze, nostrils sting.

On the beach they cross the high tide mark
littered with fragments of seashells
in pink, blue, and green — scattered game board tokens.
Their footprints weave around and between pieces
of ancient splintered ship oak, torn glistening
seaweed banners, and twisted knots of orange fishnet.

“There are better beaches,” the grandfather says. “The green
or purple lava beaches in Hawaii. The wild, driftwood-thick,
windy stretches of Chincoteague and Padre Island:
The fresh-water algae-covered pebbles of the Great Lakes.”

Water hustles over the yellow-gray sand, rushes
back and forth over two pair of feet creating whispers.
The old man’s memories of fire, chaos, and loss
flood in with the tide. The oceans also touch other beaches:
Omaha, Iwo Jima, Cam Ranh… The iron geared mills of war
stained their quartz, shell, and coral crumbs with blood-wine,

Wet sand swirls there, filling the spectral imprints
of crumpled helmeted bodies. Waves have scoured
away fabric, metal, and flesh, but bones ground fine
remain, suspended in the sand.

The old man stares at the rush of water pulling the sand
from beneath his feet, his forehead and thin white hair
dewed with salt spray, its bitter taste sacramental.

“Oh yes, grandson, if you are ever on those beaches;
walk softly for you are surely on consecrated ground.”