2010 First Prize in Poetry
Pillar of Salt
The water that stays, salt-heavy, in the denim
at my feet is pulled in six-hour strokes
between Savannah and here by the rolling-pin
moon. Grainy dough beneath it,
the beach is a sloped flatland
at low tide, and neither toes
nor tires sink in. My brother and I, grit on our glasses, pedal
hard against a prickling wind
down this granulated pavement.
In pieces, tiny tooth-white shells are
our gravel and concealed crabs spit
from under-sand chimneys. August, though,
sends us larger invertebrates in blooms.
Cooked all season as the sea warms, jellyfish
are served up here by the waves pulling back
to Savannah. Dustings of sand season their
full umbrella tops, their curtains of tentacles
tossed, for gulls and the sun to consume.
When they are beached they’re left
in craters, dish-like and smooth, where
sand before them was sucked back.
My brother coasts straight-kneed
ahead of me, right over them. Jellyfish
with nerve-net memory of the pull
through a blue prism, with leftover
voltage in their matted hairs. Still gel
under the sand. Right over them
like right over curbs. I always used to veer
away, steer a winding bike track
around those white carcasses, and cringe.
Today, though, one is in my path and I let
this pair of black wheels
keep forward and I shut my eyes
to censor the bump. Pillar of salt, I don’t
twist backwards when I’m past the crater
on street-flat beach again. On this bike
I leave a faint line scratched
into the sand behind me and I don’t want to know
if the thing’s top also has tread shapes
pressed into it.