One August night the whole house woke
to voices down on the water, laughter
flowing in pairs of twos and threes.
House after house emptied on to the beach
as bells rang out along the stretch of coast,
an easterly wind strong as the incoming tide.
I stood in the heat of the room
in my underwear, the last of sleep
falling off me, bones in my back
sticking out like wings as my older sister
rounded the corner already in her suit,
the rest of the big kids in tow
carrying nets and buckets,
smiling as if they'd stolen something
they didn't know how to give back.
A fever came
the way love would later,
a wanting as warm and smooth as clay.
Running after them
to something my seven year old heart
took as a waking dream,
a phenomenon Mobile Bay
may claim as magical and rare
in a world where myth and legend seem
wrecked and gone.
A jubilee of flounder and crab,
hundreds swarming my feet
in the pale light of the moon,
slithering up the bank,
crawling from the water.
So many that even a girl
wide-eyed and still a creature herself
could reach down and pull up
armfuls. Only as a woman
would I find it sad
and ask what had happened
when the fish had let us touch them,
scoop them motionless from the water.
People walked home,
igloos spilling with flounder,
their flat bodies neatly stacked,
their eyes asking why,
going quietly as if the men who took them
were the ones who’d been stunned,
having gathered up all that the heavens
would never have allowed them to possess
in the light of day.

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All works © 2017, Shelley Hesse. All Rights Reserved.