penumbra of an intangible holiday
First time I saw the ocean
from the backseat of the family car, I didn’t knowthe sparkles on the water
that I wouldn’t be able to hold them—
Knowing’s a coming-of-age-dress
I hesitate to wear.
That crown of street lamps pressed into the cliff
is a village where I’ll live one day
—though I know it
could only be a ship at dusk.
It holds me
from your hand.
On the beach
the foreground teens
let off lanterns.
Must be Chinese New Year?
Must be a pointillist hotel,
—oh to comb it.
Oh to comb it,
a storm-stripped November,
city wall to inner umber,
Christmas, that estate
whose wrought iron gates
I have stormed, triggering timed lights,
if only to be
tip-toed up to sill,
a spy on the hearth,
to press a cheek against
still life with vacation
Apocalypse impends but this beach town’s
already a ghost town, I am alone
with the roads and the water is coming
This is a flavor of boredom
beckoning to be named
If it’s an island there’s nowhere to run
There is only
time to pretend
and that’s when I see the bird,
Was there something I’m supposed to confess?
It is a black bird with a stupid red stripe
It is a cheap lucidity like high definition TV
It is a flaccid near-death I defer
to the lines on the road,
their rippling toward a useless edge—
How flat is the phrase nothing to lose
nowhere to go
all to myself
perpetual the smile
of organic pigment yellow 10
What should I do pirouettes
in the nude
Is there anyone out there halfway
to horizon or
strip-teasing safely beyond storm doors?
I crouch by dunes at the end of it,
Makari Sankranti, shift into Capricorn, first day the light
first visibly returns.
Another calendar’s lens
frames the ocean, as does a coast city’s
spillway to the edge—
As though deep hues could be forgone
for what washed out tones become
at sunset, for now it’s a desiccated bone.
For now it is Saturday and I have either come
or ended up here, as when wandering
one navigates by pull—
The last boulevard to cross Taraval before the beach
is a double stream of cars
I thought for sure would bounce me back,
but it’s where my feet left bottom.
I open my eyes under water.
And you are there or is it You if both
runway and wake
are made of the same stuff, it is what
the succulents are glowing with.
It is a lilting of strings
that hovers on the houses,
the weathered, the tousled
flowerpots and decadent weeds, the carelessness
that love allows,
dropping things as it goes,
remembering them in spring—
For now, it is January
and I am cold but sown to it, soon to face the ocean
in only a shawl—
having reached, finally, the last row of houses.
Facing outwards, their windows watch
the shore, agape for missing boats.
Across the great highway, coastal flowers
cling to dunes—I crouch
to watch the last of that day’s light.
On the beach below, in the purple that precedes
silhouette, dogs bound by locals,
a hooded couple links arms.
Think I know them,
think I know this
winter sun smear when the planet upturned,
when the ambient mauve
sets off the breaks’
It is a portal.
It is again as it sometimes and spontaneously has been
the abalone hour, arrival
only ever by accident—
I duly collect
my allowance of longing, genuflect
to the specter of boats,
to deepen the return
along the length of Taraval.
* * *
have blossomed into scenes.
Two blocks in, a watering hole:
is it an outpost, or the beginning?
Amphibiously, the blocks evolve
away from the sea. The bar is redly lit,
and all the rest Chinese.
On the other side of sunset
it is Saturday night. Dumpling steamed storefronts
contrast the intersecting avenues’
neural dark. On Taraval, radiating chapels,
and the light rail’s intermittent hall.
People walk to dinner
deep in neighborhood. They do not wake to me.
Perhaps, if I ate food.
Though I do not enter strip mall
hardly preening, speaking
plainly to the night, only cup
my hands before its seraph-less font,
ally to anonymity
on a withering edge—
Here at the head of Taraval,
holy water precedes the nave,
which is the Taraval of tonight,
hot air balloon in outer space,
place I can only swim to—
given jewelry and a fictional name
The bracelet’s flipside
is more threadbare (than my mom would wear)
though still cleopatra—
I see you’ve laid out more
for me to try—on the windowsill
opposite the door, gold and ivory slabs
although I was to leave.
And it is somewhere in between
ancestor and acquaintance,
along the lines
of heritage and fashion
when you hand me the book,
leather-bound inscribed with names
of guests, to sign that I was there—
Jane Eyre is too dense and less perfect
than the one I sign first
then lose—to the pages a loose
strand of cursive
Kelly Egan’s poems have appeared in Colorado Review, Laurel Review, White Stag, and Denver Quarterly, and her manuscript was recently a finalist in the Midwest Chapbook Contest. She lives in San Francisco and has an MFA in Poetry from Saint Mary’s College in Moraga. She likes to think about outer space and visit small towns.