If you’re a follower of this blog, you know I’m mostly a poet, but I have written many short stories and vignettes over the years too. So here is a sample of the latter that includes some poetry for your enjoyment. I love to hear your thoughts, and if you’d like to see more prose here, let me know.
Poetry on the Beach
Sam ambled down the empty beach, barefoot, with the cuffs of his slacks rolled up to his shins. His salt and pepper hair was mostly salt now and badly in need of a trim, and his unbuttoned shirt billowed in the breeze off the water like a flag run up a pole. He didn’t care. He dropped his pack on the sand and sat down beside it, then he leaned back on his elbows with his knees up and stared at the endless sea and sky that stretched out before him.
Melanie would have called it a cotton candy sky with its rainbow of pinks and purples swirled amid the puffed cumulus clouds. She would have told him he was in a Prufrock state of mind and mocked his rolled trousers with lines from the poem. She would have asked him if he could hear the mermaids singing; he would have made a silly joke about preferring a woman with legs she could wrap around him, and then she would do exactly that, laughing all the time and making him soar right along with her. This beach was her place, their place. How many times had they strolled its length, watched its sunsets, made love in the dunes under the stars? More times than Sam could count. Not enough. Never enough.
But it had to be enough.
Sam sat straighter and wiped his eyes. Damn sand.
From out of nowhere, a dog sat down next to him. Whatever its heritage, its ancestors must have been big. It was gray and shaggy, and looked like a cross between a St. Bernard and a sheepdog. It cocked its head and looked at Sam with its tongue lolling to one side.
Sam scratched the dog behind the ear, noting it had no tags. “Where’d you come from, boy?” He glanced down the beach for the dog’s owner, but saw no one. That was all right. He didn’t want anyone intruding on what he came to do, but the dog would be okay. The dog wouldn’t ask questions or spout meaningless cliches at him. The dog offered silent comfort just by being there.
The sun lowered on the horizon, casting diamonds on the water.
“I guess it’s time.”
The dog wagged its tail in acknowledgment. Sam unzipped his pack and pulled out a sealed plastic bowl and a sheet of paper, then stood up and walked to where the water kissed his toes with each breaking wave. The dog followed, its tail still wagging.
“This is what Melanie wanted,” he said to the dog. “She chose the place and made me promise to read this as I let her go on the evening breeze.”
The dog barked once, a short woofing sound, as if to say, “Then get on with it.”
Sam swallowed hard and began to read.
I am standing upon the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white
sails to the morning breeze and starts
for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until at length
she hangs like a speck of white cloud
just where the sea and sky come
to mingle with each other.
Then, someone at my side says;
“There, she is gone!”
Gone from my sight. That is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull
and spar as she was when she left my side
and she is just as able to bear her
load of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her.
And just at the moment when someone
at my side says, “There, she is gone!”
There are other eyes watching her coming,
and other voices ready to take up the glad
“Here she comes!”
And that is dying.
The last words broke on a sob. A gust of wind snatched the paper out of Sam’s hand and danced it over the water. The dog took after it for a few steps, then stopped and simply watched it fly. Sam opened the plastic bowl and set Melanie free in the wind, with the sand and the ocean she loved so much.
“Wait for me, sweetheart, and keep watching the horizon,” he whispered, then turned to walk down the beach the way he’d come. The big gray dog trotted behind him.
Elise Skidmore ©2018
Author’s Note: The poem that Sam reads is by Henry Van Dyke, American short-story Writer, Poet and Essayist, 1852-1933