We weren’t holding hands in that cold sunset
another lingering fall day at the beach
our wayward son before us.
He toddled his steps
hampered by the weight of his own clothes
but still determined enough to drag himself toward danger
to the icy knife of that trickled heave of shore
its noise and foam like a patient and unstoppable hand
that grabbed him in the sodden grit of all that water.
His little mouth framed a hard, blue “O” of shock
shaping the oncoming wail
that I hoped to halt by catching him to me
by sheltering him in the warmth of my own body
only to have him keening in my ear
my own private siren
soon joined by the shrieking of the birds
we had startled from their pecking forage.
There was no escaping danger.
He calmed, eventually.
Brought home in his pockets
the smooth-worn chunks of passive rocks
and the stinking curve of abandoned shells
to be lined up on every windowsill in our house
miles from shore
and empty of the life they once held.
BIO: Jennifer Ihasz is currently working on her MFA from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast program. When she isn’t writing she works as a historian specializing in Colonial New England.