Back then,we lived right on the frolicky water,
little Lu and I,
in the ramshackle cottage of velvety rocks
that were softened by sun and rain and time.
Back then the world smelled of wet air and sea salt
and sometimes someone missing still.
On days when the air was sunless and still
and the wind played dead with the water,
we'd walk to the rocks that were crusted with salt,
periwinkled and spray-licked. I
would hold Lu close for an unknown time
till we were periwinkles too, glued to the rocks
and each other. As we skipped rounded rocks,
and shattered the mirror of still, still
ocean, Lu sometimes would ask, “Is it time
for her to come back yet?” My eyes would water,
but I would say nothing. Just rub at my eye,
as though it only was stung by the ocean's salt.
And though we told ourselves we just smelled salt
and wet air, though we sat on the rocks
skipping stones one by one, while I
said almost nothing and tried to think nothing, we still
squinched up our eyes against the glare on the water
and hoped ourselves into believing today, this time,
that speck was a boat, maybe not quite on time,
but not so late after all: pushing through salt
and thick weeds, bounding across the water
to reach us, where we sat on the periwinkled rocks,
still waiting. But the speck was just a speck, still
and lonely; the boat just a trick of the eye.
It took some years before I
at last decided that it was time
to leave. The rocks, the sea, the speck, the cottage. And still,
we looked back that one last time, hoping the salt
on the breeze would bring to our rocks
the smell of someone missing from way across the water.
And even still, from time to time,
I imagine a speck, way across the water,
where she waits for us now on those salt-crusted rocks.