We stand side by side facing the Baltic.
He picks a flat stone and says: one.
I say: I didn’t see. He shouts: six.
I answer: I wasn’t looking.
A child, I throw too fiercely
into the face of each wave.
As if at the toll to a unknown country,
I intuit the delicate ball-socket
in my cringing shoulder.
I feel the smallness of my loneliness.
Poised along the horizon, awkward
as circus dogs on a tightrope,
trawlers to Karelia and the White Sea.
Now I walk stiff-legged
on the opposite beach.
The perfect stone, wafer-thin,
but I won’t palm it.
Let it lie among strangers
where the sea left it.
(First appeared in The Times Literary Supplement.)
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