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The Beach at Sunset

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for Colleen

The cliff above where we stand is crumbling
and up on the Palisades
the sidewalks buckle like a broken conveyer belt.

Art Deco palm trees sway their hula skirts
in perfect unison
against a backdrop of gorgeous blue,

and for you I would try it,
though I have always forbidden myself to write
poems about the beach at sunset.

All the clichés for it sputter
like the first generation of neon,
and what attracts me anyway

are these four species of gulls we’ve identified,
their bodies turned into the wind,
and not one of them aware of their silly beauty.

I’m the one awash in pastels
and hoping to salvage the day, finally turning away
from the last light on the western shore

and the steady whoosh of waves driving in,
drumming insistently like the undeniable data
of the cancer in your breast.

We walk back to the car
and take the top down for the ride home
through the early mist.

No matter what else is happening,
this is California. You’ll have your cancer
at freeway speeds. I’ll drive and park

and drive at park. The hospital
when I arrive to visit will be catching
the last rays of the sun, glinting

like an architectural miracle realized.
I realize a miracle is what you need—
a grain of sand, a perfect world

where you live beyond the facts
of what your body has given you
as the first taste of death.


Eloise Klein Healy, “The Beach at Sunset” from Passing. Copyright © 2002 by Eloise Klein Healy. Reprinted by permission of Red Hen Press.
Source: Passing (Red Hen Press, 2002)
The Beach at Sunset

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