Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Towards Two Mile Hollow


It’s not the beauty of the man
that’s haunted me for days.
One broad, browned chest
would have turned my head,
then merged with every momentary god
into the surf.
The memory of a boy
pale, round-faced, curious, repeatedly
trudging from plover on to gull,
then back again, but furtively inspecting
on every pass two aging men–or striving
for such discretion as a six-year-old
can hope to own:
my charmed amusement
would have evanesced within the day.


The sting of longing,
elastic as it slaps into the hollow
niche the heart has left it,
took me in the chest
at first sight of a father with his son
in shallow, low-tide breakers: the child pressed
between a half-length surfboard and the weight
of sinewed arms around him, as they clung
resolutely, blissfully,
from wave to wave, ecstatic to ride forward
a yard or two–the short thrust was enough
to span a world.


I stood awash,
coveting–what? The father’s rippled shoulders?
To be the boy? The wave on which they rode?
No fantasy could compass
what together they stirred up, while from a distance
I dovetailed my attentions with the caution
an age that brooks no Aschenbach demands.
An older son strolled near them up the slope,
neither bored nor jealous, but content
with calceous fragments, for the moment, and a pit
that reached prodigious depths despite the absurdity
of one red beach shovel all three had shared
with a lean man older than my lover--
the grandfather, clearly; in whose presence
there spiralled open an abyss
of nameless yearning drawing down that sand.


At last, the boy glanced toward me between waves,
and in his flash of curiosity
some recognition recognized itself
where things converged:
his fascination with us
earlier in the week;
his father’s flanks
above red boxers clinging to strong buttocks,
athwart the chest to which I’d turned my eyes
so briefly down the shore;
the father’s joy, losing himself,
flesh pressed to flesh,
in a childhood his own, and not.
It seemed then that desire
for once was not indictment, nor conundrum,
but a tidal force we shared, and not,
defiant of analysis, that bore us up.

Copyright David Townsend 2010

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