#107

Raphaëlle Martin Raphaëlle Martin1

A Day at the Beach by Peter Schmitt
If he had been paying more attention
to whatever my mother was saying
from under her hat beneath the umbrella,

or watching more closely over my brother,
off playing somewhere with his shovel and pail,
or me, idly tracing my name in the sand,

if he hadn’t had that faraway look,
gazing out to where the freighters crawled along
the horizon – so that when he suddenly

pushed up and off, sand in his wake, visor
taking wing behind him, you could believe,
as he churned toward the glassy water,

that it had just come to him to chuck it all,
this whole idea of family, and make
for those southbound freighters and the islands –

then he might have never seen the arm heaved up,
the lifeguards running just as my father
was lifting the old man out of the surf

and bearing him ashore, the blue receding
from his cramped limbs. And as a crowd closed around
the gasping figure struggling to his knees,

my father turned back to us – sheepishly,
almost, back to the endless vigilance
of husband and of father, which was all
he had ever asked for in the first place.

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