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.