The Origins of Longing

What is it about the beach and desire?
Surely not the oiled flesh of the self-important
who appropriated this particular piece
of real estate during an era
when Presidents and Princesses visited,
created a cottage industry for beefy college kids
to enforce the colonial-era ban on walking,
fishing or fowling above the high water line
nor can it be the onshore winds firing
the perfect swells, the now untouchable clay
mottled in the cliffs, off-limits to all but plovers,
and it isn?t the interminable wait to enter
the parking lot, flash that coveted sticker
and take the last spot among the island beaters.

It might be the beach roses on the path.

The Wampanoag giant Moshup knew
the idea of owning a beach was sheer folly.
He wandered far before he?d settled
on the Vineyard, dragged his foot to sever
it from the mainland, plowed up
the cliffs of Gay Head and lit the first
of his massive cook fires, insatiable
in their appetite for fuel, leaving behind
a world for the archeologists – layers
of petrified wood and coal in the cliffs ?
and the treeless expanse that maps call
Moshup’s Trail. Scraps from his dinner table
are the bones and teeth of ancient life.

One day Moshup summoned his followers
clamming in the tidal ponds, swimming
off the warm south shore beaches and tending
fires on the high glacial plains. A new kind of man,
with fairer skin than yours, will soon be coming.
Do not them let them land on these shores
or your lives will change forever.

It must be the beach roses on the path.

 

 

Originally published in the Rockhurst Review, Spring 2015

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