Invincible summer |||

Not swimming

for Christiane Cassel

Once again it is that afternoon at Bakers Beach. 
You stop the car, and lead us across the hot sand 
to a quieter spot. Nobody is swimming much. 
On the shore the cold Pacific breakers pound. 

We strip to swimsuits, lay out towels 
and then our flesh to grill. Beside me 
your thin delicious body on the beach: 
we talk. I keep my gaze from your grey eyes. 

You’re being frank. You talk about two husbands 
and your work, and then the many boyfriends who 
turned into something less. Your quiet voice 
makes the obscenity authentic, but it’s spoiled 
by your gay smile: explaining to a child. 

It’s too hot. We stroll along the wave-cooled sand 
and back. We are almost playing silly games 
but it’s very hot. Back to towels, more talk 
and still the heat. A seagull mews above us 
and you dare me to a splash.

I decline, saying I am too lazy, meaning old 
to try rebirth in a cold sea. 
Much older, you stand up. I watch. 

Coming back from the splash, you are 
covered in cold drops, skin chilled, eyes sparkling. 
You consider wetting me, pick up your towel 
instead, and rub. 

Late afternoon at your apartment. I mix drinks 
and prowl your bookshelves: you rest in your room. 
In the bathroom your wet swimsuit drips into the tub.

That evening we dined in Sausalito. 
In a restaurant by the pier we ate 
fried fish and sourdough bread, laughed 
over the waiter who wouldn’t 
bring fish before salad, and afterwards 
circled each the other’s waist and walked 
beside moored boats. 
Time seemed to bring us closer. 
I thought about a second kiss, then we declined 
one party on three boats and turned towards the car.

The Bay lights glowed softly as we 
crossed the Bridge, black water underneath. 
You would have offered coffee 
but were flying East next morning. 
We drove past your apartment, back to where 
I stayed with other friends, and stopped. 

Black water underneath the heart: 
I cast off on the sidewalk with a kiss, and waved. 
Already your love was slipping out of reach, and I 
not swimming after it.