Periwinkle

The last house of all the houses
is Topside, a tall blue boy on stilts,
shading the cracked cement
carport’s sandy assemblage:
shack-shower and scaling board, a scatter of spades
to dig to China.
The China-blue of the sky
dishes the sea.

Not a sea, an ocean. Not Pacific—
no family rentals are. But Atlantic
as Atlas, groaning under
summer’s burden,
on the Outer Banks of
an American memory.
The beach is where families come
to be broken, worn down, sandblasted.

Mornings, Mama and I
went striding down beach lip—
her thundering stride
slowed to my endless tangents
stooping in search of angel wings,
periwinkle, slivers of smoothed shell
that shined only when wet.
My zigs and running zags
brought such broken bounty
to her emptied coffee cup,
smelling of saltwater cream.

In dry sand our feet made no mark, only
indentations, lost in waves
where others had passed. Tire tread rippled,
its finned pattern crunched soft as caked sugar underfoot.
In wet sand I leapt from crescent to crescent, following the
eyelash moons left by her tall arch,
stamping each with my smaller, blunt rectangle.

Going back, years down,
my step flattens into my father’s
hammer-toed plank, not fit for dancing, not fit
for running the long shore. I walk slower, but still stoop
to each shiny thing—broken spiral, glinting claw,
smooth of lavender in the shallows.
The coffee cup still serves
as keeper.

I’d like to dig down
under the water-light dazzle
rimming the surf, bury
the bivalve clamp of my body
in dark quartz grains—
chug-chug, chug-chug—like the periwinkle,
hiding an electric-violet center
till death—to open,
splay-winged on blinding sand
for a child to find and shatter in delight.

Lucy Alford

Lucy Alford

Born in Charlottesville, Virginia, Lucy Alford teaches and writes on poetry and poetics at the University of Chicago. Her scholarly book, Forms of Poetic Attention, is forthcoming with Columbia University Press. Her essays and poems have appeared in Philosophy & Literature, Dibur, MLN, Harpur Palate, The Warwick Review, Streetlight, and, in Italian translation, Atelier.
Lucy Alford

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Author: Lucy Alford

Born in Charlottesville, Virginia, Lucy Alford teaches and writes on poetry and poetics at the University of Chicago. Her scholarly book, Forms of Poetic Attention, is forthcoming with Columbia University Press. Her essays and poems have appeared in Philosophy & Literature, Dibur, MLN, Harpur Palate, The Warwick Review, Streetlight, and, in Italian translation, Atelier.