KATIE BYRUM


 
[BEACH HOUSE]


Today there was a purple cloud wandering through the other weather. I pined
for this cloud, groping my way back home, retreating from the litter of dead
jellyfish, the small globes of their bodies, mottled like sealskin.
The synapses still firing and twitching a heartbeat. Hesitate to touch
but desire to feel the sleek back of a being all mind and arms
ungathering. And heartless. Shining the sky back to itself. Once
I pilfered a blue heron who was perched near the dunes on the eve of a holiday.
I traded it for that cloud, and was sorry first for the heron and second for the sea,
which so solemnly receded in the distance.

I was sorry watching this bird, the way it held
what its head remembered of the sea,
its neck craned looking out the window. There is a tyranny
to how the sea conducts the weather. Sifting. Now
the bird sits caged above yesterday’s paper, and I am sorry first
for the bird, for the language there beneath it, and sorry second for myself,
for all the tongues I have forgotten. It makes me wistful to poke a dead jellyfish; I have
often felt severed from my weapons. There is a way in which everyone is defenseless.
The bird is rattling off its to-do list. It pecks at the newspaper,
unhinges the cage door, and sees that there is still this room, these windows, that cloud.
 
 
 
 
[BEACH HOUSE: EXCHANGE POLICY]

30-day no money back, I traded my bird for the could—cloud.
I put the cloud in the birdcage but it felt all wrong.
Wouldn’t have a drink; didn’t catch my drift. When the purple wore off
I got to missing that familiar music. Songs he used to play.
The jokes we’d do from old movies. How we’d sit by the window.

Eventually, the cloud got lost in a lavender depression,
turning his face to the wall and sighing great billows of fog.

What happened to that confection of longing I saw in the sky?

I kept trying to crack jokes. Say my little language.
Nothing helped and I got self-conscious, everything I said felt derivative and wrinkled.
Felt like the city when you’re in pajamas. Then—in my own home!—I was a pauper
in the pantry of a prince. Still, what I wouldn’t give
to have that incessant pecking again, even for just one day.

Out the window, the arrogant sea kept displaying its valuables.
Flashing its marvelous clouds and phosphorescent pelicans. Dangerous behavior
in this economy, unveiling again and again and again, smug in knowing
I’d be sure to salivate at the sight of its sand, so finely, finally ground.

 
 
 
 



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