The Beach House
I imagine myself as a woman with a beach house
made of weathered boards and rusty nails, with
a screen door that slams when it shuts. It is late
November and the sky is pigeon-gray—the clouds
settling like broody hens atop the navy-blue water.
A cold wind whisks the salty air and licks the ocean’s
foam, as white as fallen snow against the wet sand.
How the seabirds cry as they circle and swoop. And
somewhere in the distance, a child’s laughter is as
faint as the sound of waves in a conch shell, and as
brief as my childhood. I think of my father, his lean
and freckled body young and strong, how he swam
so far beyond the breakers I thought he would never
make it back. My heart would flutter in my narrow
chest like a bird caught in a drainpipe until he turned
at last, toward the shore. There is no silence deeper
than the stilled voices of those we have loved, no
greater sorrow. Yet, a cup of tea warms my hands,
and clouds are racing now, like herds of Andalusian
horses, across a never-ending field of sea and sky.
Terri Kirby Erickson is the author of six collections of poetry, including A Sun Inside My Chest (Press 53), winner of the 2021 International Book Award for Poetry. Her work has appeared in “American Life in Poetry,” Asheville Poetry Review, JAMA, Poet’s Market, The Christian Century, The Path to Kindness: Poems of Connection and Joy, The Sixty-Four: Best Poets of 2019, The SUN, The Writer’s Almanac, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and many more. Awards include the Joy Harjo Poetry Prize and a Nautilus Silver Book Award. She lives in North Carolina.