William Matthews

(November 11, 1942 - November 12, 1997 / Cincinnati, Ohio)

A Walk Poem by William Matthews


February on the narrow beach, 3o
A.M. I set out south. Cape Cod Light
on its crumbling cliff above me turns
its wand of light so steadily
it might be tolling a half-life,
it might be the second-hand
of a schoolroom clock,
a kind of blind radar.

These bluffs deposited by glaaciers
are giving themselves away
to the beaches down the line, three
feet of coastline a year. I follow
them south at my own slow pace.
Ahead my grandfather died
in a boat and my father
found him and here I come.

If I cleave to the base of the I berm
the offshore wind swirls grit
just over my head and the backwash
rakes it away. If I keep going
south toward my grandfatherís house
in Chatham, and beyond,
the longshore current grinds the sand
finer the farther I go. It spreads

it wider and the beaches sift
inland as far as they can go
before beachgrass laces them down
for now. It gets to be spring,
I keep walking, it gets to be
summer. Families loll.
Now the waves are small; they keep
their swash marks close to home.

A little inland from the spurge
and sea-rockets my tan sons kick
a soccer ball north, against
grains that may once have been
compacted to sandstone, then
broken back to grains, bumbling
and driven and free again,
shrinking along the broadening edge.

Submitted: Wednesday, April 21, 2010

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