Baja Campground, August 1955
This wind was what we wanted.
Not the sea lifting and rocking us,
warm bath we could almost fall asleep in,
but emery air. We were fourteen
and across the border. Inside
the husk of the tent, your parents,
bodies rolled to the walls,
dozed among dust motes, outside
the afternoon was restless.
deserted paths through canvas rows
pitched on the brim of the Pacific
tan and khaki quivering in a Santa Ana
that scraped up the sand and hurled it,
driving us into the makeshift snackbar,
its whitewashed eastern wall pitted
by years at the mouth of the canyon,
and out again—
In the dunes,
two sailors eased us down (not the boys
we thought we'd find there), their sleeves
rolled to hold cigarettes. No sound
but breath, rasp of stubble on cheek,
the air a scrim of gauze, sand shifting
beneath our backs.
They could have left us
scorched as the whispering beach grass.
Instead they let us go. All night
we turned in our sleeping bags, grit galling
our skin, working its way into our pores.
Ruth Anderson Barnett (San Diego, CA) has had poems in Beloit Poetry Journal, Florida Review, Green Mountains Review, Southern Poetry Review and Borderlands. She won the 1995 Sow©s Ear Poetry Prize.
Copyright ©1996 Ruth Anderson Barnett. All rights reserved.