East Third at Ocean

Andrea Hollander Budy

Six o’clock. A few teenagers take a final swim, shake out towels,
brush sand from their bodies. So many lost

sounds, thinner than money, thinner
than a trivial thought. Behind a young boy going home

the ocean hushes. Soon he must step over the closed eyes of a few men
who own only their trousers, their gloves.

In the tavern it is always the same: dark mornings
become dark afternoons, and only a human voice answers

the small prayer of the woman unable to rise from the bar. Outside
the municipal clock strikes its whole note, unnoticed, as though

an afterthought. In separate apartments a block from the beach,
a cradle rocks, a woman’s head lolls over the day’s news, a sleepy man

touches his lover’s cheek with his own cheek. And in every room
sunlight narrows, retreats. In an old house closer in, a girl’s fingers

rise from the keys, and yet the melody lingers, keeps. Predictably,
darkness comes but nothing important ends because of it,

nothing stops, nothing closes. Even the wordless voice of a newborn
blends into the waning day and goes on

as though it were mocking the way you
insist on your own significance or try to separate

mornings from afternoons, days from other days, plain years
from the years of beautiful complication—the way you behave

as if the ocean itself were not repetitive, endless.