Madeleine Barnes

We climbed steps toward a beach without fences,
our veins full of stars and the metallic gifts of childhood

as if we could forget ourselves before the sea, offset
the light of speculation from which I always retreated

simply by looking upwards, or by giving my heart
to one thing and not the rest. We admired

the birds of winter, how they seemed unaware
of their authority, self-mastered, floating on a black wave.

I could no longer say, “that’s you,” or “that’s me.”
The sea wind pled like a saw against my throat, so secure

in my lungs and in my terror. We stood in the clear and quiet
landscape, overtaken—the wind pressed against us harder.

We were in the space between the moon and childhood,
and it was a miracle to belong there, capable of lingering

among what would outlive us. Side by side, we understood
nothing, dependent on mysterious images that entered us.

The pure constellations of our mothers
and fathers infused us with calm expectancy—

how could we forget them? How we forget that they, too,
freed themselves from dread and ran into the open?