All day the gulls dove, cries unsynchronized,
throats clinching every note as tightly as their bills
pincered quivering fish. The morning wind, spiked
with salt, stung our eyes as the sun slashed its light
across the numb horizon. I guess this is mine now, you said,
by default, drumming your chewed fingernails
with a hollow ruc-a-tuc, ruc-a-tuc on the bumper
of your father’s truck, our reflection skewed in its dents.
And everything from that point on was slow motion:
the rest of the day spreading between us without words,
sunbathers coming and going, building their castles
until the tide slithered in to crush the towers in its grip.
Then the cooler air, clouds wisping thin, the last
of the fishermen reeling in, and the loon on one leg
letting the pink wings of sunset molest her feather by feather.
Alone, under the cold fist of the moon and backed by hazy winks
of distant hotel lights, you slogged in calf-deep, the waves
gutting the ocean floor, sloshing its dregs against
you. From the shore I memorized
each splintered shell, each man-of-war, each muscle
you didn’t flinch. Without ceremony, you slung the urn
out past the breakers, its lid tipping, dark tail of ashes
trailing. As you returned, the chill of the night
trembling through you, the smell of the brine in your hair,
I knew this would be the end for us. Your green eyes were pale,
scaled of their usual laughter. You swung from your loss,
gills straining. I loved you most in that moment, knowing
even as I slipped my arm up the back of your shirt, hooking us
together, that you were about to cut me loose to spare me
the tightening of the line, the bruise of sudden air.