William Matthews (November 11, 1942 - November 12, 1997 / Cincinnati, Ohio)
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.
Comments about this poem (A Walk by William Matthews )
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