Ravi Shankar

Sea Watchers, Oil Paint on Canvas, 1952

“I find in working, always the distracting intrusion of elements not a part of my most interested
vision, and the inevitable obliteration and replacement of this vision by the work itself as it proceeds.”
-Edward Hopper

Not the Hamptons, even a half-century ago,
more barren in midday than a beach should be,
gull-less, garrulous only on the clothesline
where orange and yellow towels flutter dry.
Impassive as the angular stones in the sand,
husband and wife steep in the sun, silent.
It’s been years since they felt any need
for small talk and now, childless, on vacation,
they’ve chosen a concrete shore house
to spend a week swimming, eating lobster
rolls at the shack in the center of town,
and watching the clear hyaline sea darken
in spots over the kelp-encrusted rocks.
At night, she will undress, carefully folding
her navy blue two-piece swimsuit over
the porcelain lip of the streaked claw-foot
tub that stands adjacent to the narrow bed
where he reclines, reading a Popular Mechanics.
She will unhook the clasp of the swim cap
under her chin to shake out her still damp
hair, to frown fractionally at the mirror
before getting into bed. In a few minutes,
he will place the magazine in the bedside
table’s oak drawer, click off the lamp,
and without exchanging a word, hold her
by the ankles to better gain purchase
on the taut cotton sheets she will remake
in the morning when he jogs on the beach.
Even though he hasn’t enjoyed his job
for a decade and she hasn’t seen her mother
once in half that time, they sit together—
for now, all that matters is to see the sea.

Ravi Shankar
Poem, copyright © 2005 by Ravi Shankar
Appearing on From the Fishouse with permission
Audio file, copyright © 2005, From the Fishouse