Tide Pools and Cold Waves
Crouched beside Dad, my two brothers and I stare, fascinated
as he points to odd creatures in a seaweed-smothered rocky pool:
periwinkle, limpet, mussel, barnacle, hermit crab, sea urchin, sea star…
Excitedly we investigate as random patches of skin missed by
sun block bake mercilessly red like paint on aging wooden buildings
near the shore. We tire of climbing on rocks and cross the sandy,
pebble-strewn beach to retreat from brilliant sunshine under
our striped umbrella where our grandparents are helping
Mom serve a picnic lunch. A fly finds my cup of milk
while a gentle breeze beckons fine sand grains to join
my sandwich. My brothers and I grow restless from “resting”
in the shade. We beg Dad to take us to the ice cream truck where
we begin a race against time to enjoy our treats before they melt.
As always, small sweet streams begin to flow over our hands
and down our arms to drip off elbows to the sand. We lick salty,
sticky fingers and run back down the beach to join the others
already testing the water. The boys dive under quickly.
Mom, Gram and I wade in, legs protesting the cold. Someone
splashes us and before long we are riding waves and laughing
as we each try to glide the farthest. Worn-out and water-wrinkled,
my brothers decide to build a sand castle: more of a moat around
a mound, which strongly resembles an overturned pail of wet sand.
Mom and I stroll along the beach picking up pebbles until we find
those few we will take home.
Too soon we leave.
Too soon we leave.
Sand- and salt-encrusted, we perch on towels stretched across
hot car seats for the short ride back to our grandparents’
Colonial where we will soon feast on lobster, steamed clams,
corn on the cob, warm bread and blueberry pie. I am famished,
but before we are allowed inside Dad must rinse us clean.
I scramble with my brothers to be first in line for the hose.
Sun-warmed water feels soothing on sandy, sunburned skin before
the flow turns shockingly cold. Last again today, I squeal and jump
as chilly water washes over me, a reminder of the ocean waiting
for me tomorrow, and next summer and all summers to come
when I will bring my children to the shore for picnics
and ice cream and hours of play in tide pools and cold waves.
Poet's Notes: As a child, summer vacation meant a trip to New England to visit relatives and always included at least one day at the beach riding waves and exploring mud flats or tide pools. And so began my love of the ocean, which probably led to my youthful years as a competitive swimmer and my master's degree in marine zoology. At some point, my family discovered the wide beaches and warm blissful waves along the Georgia coast, but my early memories all involve the skin-numbing waters of New England.
I rarely write long poems because I am always short on time, and long poems can lead to lengthy revisions - this poem was no exception. But these memories of magical days at Sandy Beach in Massachusetts are precious to me and would not fit in a minimalist form. (To be fair, the tide pools at Pemaquid Point in Maine are perhaps even more fascinating.)