Men at the End of Their Strings

After the cars carefully search for
and lurch into their parking spots
and the extra pants are packed
in case of a wave’s sneak attack,
the blankets are tugged out from under
coolers stuffed with drinks and sandwiches
and little plastic sleeves of condiments.
We are families on the way to the winter
beach, toting soccer balls to launch
through driftwood goals, frisbees that
hover like some day-glo, latter-day vultures
waiting for a feast. We stalk the huge
gulls as though they are mastodons in the sand.
We surround and suddenly rush to invoke
prehistoric panic. They lift and criticize
our silly gravitational habit. Nigel is going
thin at the top, and I am going soft
in the middle. My son’s foot marks a print
larger than mine. Nigel’s bests him
in the rite of passage race. The kids
collect feathers, dig up mussel shells,
study the crabs’ broken husks hidden
in the sea wrack. Phew! — where there’s
sandflies, sure as hell there’s stink.
Finally, we pose together in front of
the sandcastle’s ruins. But before we
leave we fly the kites. The shark face
in the sky scorns the kids’ persistence,
and soon they lose interest. Once again
Nigel and I tend the nagging little presence
on the end, wondering what it might have
been like to live on the margins in Bolinas,
run an antique shop in Sonoma, become
the Sebastopol fortune teller. Something
binds us to this moment, something we
might call quiet dignity, or something the soul
of the wind has summoned. Up ahead of us
are the kids trying to roll a waterlogged
trunk into the sea. One, two, three —
they all heave at once while Nigel urges,
Push, lads, push.

About Tim Kahl

Tim Kahl is the author of four books, the most recent being Omnishambles (Bald Trickster, 2019). His work has been published in many literary journals in the US and abroad. He is also editor of Clade Song [ http://www.cladesong.com ]. He is the vice president and events coordinator of The Sacramento Poetry Center. He plays flutes, guitars, ukuleles, charangos, and cavaquinhos. He currently teaches at California State University, Sacramento, where he sings lieder while walking on campus between classes. [ http://www.timkahl.com ]

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