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The Beach

You're surrounded by towels and pails, plastic shovels, rakes,
   the children amused while you're worried; your husband's gone,

took a walk a few hours ago, beer in hand, hot dog in the other.
   You watch lovers stroll near the waves, the girl away from the water

as if on parade, you know he wants the sunbathers to see her.  
   A sandcastle rises from your eldest's hands, little turrets, moats,

then the youngest destroys it with one kick of his shin.  You think
   of Penelope unweaving her loom, keeping the suitors 

at bay, her patience, her fortitude, unlike you growing angrier,
   restless, waiting for your lost Ulysses, you can't do anything

with yourself but rock on your heels, eyeing the cliffs near the far horizon.
   One child is crying.  He has sand in his eyes, the other

has a load in his diapers.  The third is digging to China.  You wish
   you were on a boat somewhere.  It begins to get chilly,

the wind unwinding, people packing, dogs fornicating, seagulls yapping.
   Then you see him returning; you don't know if you should be

happy or mad.  He sits down on the towel, wraps his arms around
   your sunburnt shouders, takes out two beers from the cooler,

hands you one, then spills his guts about the topless woman
   and the photographers near the rocks, how he joined the gawkers,

how beautiful she was, hot, a real professional, the perfect California
   babe: hair, lips, the tits, and she bent this way and that,

her name was Cheri, and you listened, you listened,
   you didn't know if the chill came from the inside

or the outside, you looked at the waves, the ships,
   you thought of Penelope ceasing her weaving,

sitting in silence, listening to this marvelous tale--
   good and dutiful, something stupid she would do.

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