Red flags on the lifeguard chairs: swim
at your own risk; bacteria levels high today.
Lili and I unpack our bags. We have takeout.
We think out loud, fall silent. We laze. We’ve left
our families at home. A crew of geese
eyes us, moving down the empty beach
with that bully-waddle, snake-neck look they have,
and I’m just tired of it, so I do what’s natural
and take out my phone, type in DOGS BARKING
and aim the sound their way. We unwrap summer rolls
full of mint and lettuce, they are the same temperature
as the air, and so are we: reptilian, still. We have to keep
an eye on the time, but we pretend we don’t. The geese
move on, their black legs thin and malicious. They leave little
piles to remember them by. I’m on a break, don’t
talk to me, I say to my kids sometimes when I’ve hit my limit.
When asked certain questions, the president
ends the press conference, tear-gasses the peaceful protesters.
When given certain conditions, nature simply
shuts the book on itself: goodbye, says the Tasmanian Tiger,
says the Golden Toad, says the Madeiran Large White
Butterfly. Bacteria is natural. Exhaustion is natural.
When we’ve talked about work, we’re free to talk
about books. The shadows are lengthening around our
bodies. Eventually, we’ll be refused, too.
Chloe Martinez is a poet and a scholar of South Asian religions. She is the author of Corner Shrine (Backbone Press, 2020), and Ten Thousand Selves (The Word Works, forthcoming 2021). Her poems are published/forthcoming in Ploughshares, Shenandoah, The Common, and elsewhere. She teaches at Claremont McKenna College. www.chloeAVmartinez.com