Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Beach Monologue

At many points, most of them low, in my younger life, I fantasized pulling up every stake I had and setting out to somewhere else. Somewhere else was where I didn't know anyone and didn't have any connections. Invariably, my dreams would take me to some nameless small town tacked to the New England seacoast. I would get a job at a local restaurant (never mind that I at that age was an apathetic waitress at best), rent a sparely furnished room in someone's house, and live my life.

In my fantasies, my new life was always idyllic.

This monologue is the flip side: a "what if?" written for that tempestuous young woman of yore.

********

On the Beach

So it has come to this: a sparse, bare cottage -
Oh, let's be truthful, a shack really -
that rents cheap in this little beach town gritty with sand and hard times.

I piece together a living: 20 hours at the library,
10 hours at the grocery, odd jobs here and there.
It keeps the lights on, but it's
nothing to write home about, if there was anyone left to write home to.

I eat simply and sparingly, out of concern for both my
health and my pocketbook.
In the summer, I grow a few tomatoes
off the back deck and feel rich beyond compare.

Most of my needs can be met at the Salvation Army store next town over.
I don't know about my wants anymore.

I have to think a few minutes to come up with how long I've been here,
almost but not quite having to count on my fingers.
I was young, of course - who isn't, setting off on a quest? -
and I knew - knew deep in my bones - that I was the one with
the golden touch, the quicksilver pen.
Five months, ten months, and I would have a fat manuscript of poems
that would out-Frost Robert Frost.
So I chose this little town, well off the tourist track,
and settled down to write. 

I would write the best stuff of my life up here,
fueled by the eternal promise of the ocean.

Ten months stretched into twenty, and then twenty more. 
After sixty months, I stopped counting.

The little jobs I took for "color," for "authentic voice,"
became the daily routine
until I grew tired of collecting rejection slips and food stamps,
and looked for work that would at least allow me to eat.

It's been almost thirty-five years since I shuffled off the coil of my hometown
told mom I'd make it, she'd see
turned down the hesitant proposal from the old boyfriend
and drove north just like Stuart Little.
A lot of tides have come and gone. I look in the mirror
and see my mother's lined face staring back out at me,
see the silver laced through my hair.

I still walk the beach, picking up driftwood
and other wave-borne oddments for my room,
not even bothering to scan the horizon for my ship that never came in.

4 comments:

see you there! said...

Dreams. Mine was a garret in Paris to paint not write. I did do a 6 month stint in France (Southern France not Paris) on my own. Then I decided I'd better buckle down and make a living.

Darla

Sharon said...

Interestingly, this sounds very much like the book I just started to re-read..A Year by the Sea, by Joan Anderson who carried out your fantasy to live somewhere else on their own. (In Joan's book, she actually owned her Cape Cod cottage).

Anonymous said...

Your ship came in. You found Warren. You are the Ohio version of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. There is no place like home and you are a success at it!

Life is life. Why do people think they need to make it an experience?

Terri said...

I love this poem--it reminds me of "someone I once knew", if you catch my drift. My little town was out West, in the mountains...