it’s winter in san diego
the sound of your feet on wooden planks

down to the water

 

white skies, white waves

 

there’s a woman swimming naked
in the cold, her child at her side

doesn’t seem to mind.

 

Last night I held your hand

under the table, your sister sat across from us
her baby didn’t like me, you laughed
gave a squeeze, I held on tight

 

I love the beach in winter. It’s nice to share the ocean
with the dogs in the water, lolled heads of seaweed
hissing onto the shore – but it’s also nice
to have the ocean alone.

 

Ladling soup last night (pot gleaming, steam, an orange bowl)
– I finally let myself cry

 

next to me in the kitchen, your father drank undisturbed
you kissed me in the hallway
I’m afraid of him, you told me once
I pressed my head into your chest
it was goodbye, you didn’t know, gripped my wrist

 

just to let it go.

 

here in San Diego
you can’t tell the homeless and the surfers apart
deeply tan, sunbleached hair
tears in their clothes

 

I guess we all search for something, on whatever side

–so the dark men build houses on the water
chucks of white marble in their hands
glimpse the sunset, leave them for someone else

and the blond boys go on dreaming
of Hawaii, of better, bluer water

 

I stand on boulders, strangely curved, remember currents

of water
and wind, too. I sit,

 

quiet with the birds. Horizon, an endless line, presses

 

down on all this blue.

 

and the woman

slips in, a silver coin necklace

flashing on her chest,

 

 

brightest thing in the waves.

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ISABELLA ESSER-MUNERA's work has been generously supported by the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference and Yale Writer's Workshop, receiving the Ursinus Poetry Prize in 2015. Previously she served as an editor of Foglifter magazine. A complete list of publications can be found at isessermunera.com.

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