Martin Arnold

Nag’s Head

Decades of silence glitter in the silicon distances
Between constellations


Of starfish littering the beach
My father and I are learning


To navigate. Yesterday, between us,
A blinding wind of sand and


Sea foam. Today, slender plumes of plunging gulls,
Squadrons of pelicans


Skimming pipes of curling waves, dolphins
Turning like propellers just past the breakers,


The smashed armor of horseshoe crabs.


He describes waking from a midday nap

Against a log after setting up camp


To buzzards circling, his father’s gangrene
After a botched intestinal surgery,


The chemo pills he’s taking to fight
The leukemia pillaging his body—


As busy little harmless birds
Scurry in and out of the surf.


There are so many gaps we rush to fill,
So much time to make up for,


And so little chance of actually telling each other


Though it feels good to try


As we walk this beach named for horses
Pirates hung ship lanterns from


Dark and lonely nights


To lure sailors into these shoals
Looking for safety


In the company of another ship.

Martin Arnold