Louise Gluck




Summer at the Beach

Before we started camp, we went to the beach.

Long days, before the sun was dangerous.
My sister lay on her stomach, reading mysteries.
I sat in the sand, watching the water.

You could use the sand to cover
parts of your body that you didn't like.
I covered my feet, to make my legs longer;
the sand climbed over my ankles.

I looked down at my body, away from the water.
I was what the magazines told me to be:
coltish. I was a frozen colt.

My sister didn't bother with these adjustments.
When I told her to cover her feet, she tried a few times,
but she got bored; she didn't have enough willpower
to sustain a deception.

I watched the sea; I listened to the other families.
Babies everywhere: what went on in their heads?
I couldn't imagine myself as a baby;
I couldn't picture myself not thinking.

I couldn't imagine myself as an adult either.
They all had terrible bodies: lax, oily, completely
committed to being male and female.

The days were all the same.
When it rained, we stayed home.
When the sun shone, we went to the beach with my mother.

My sister lay on her stomach, reading her mysteries.
I sat with my legs arranged to resemble
what I saw in my head, what I believed was my true self.

Because it was true: when I didn't move I was perfect.