Approaches to the Beach

NIKI LEOPOLD

May 18, 1991|By Niki Leopold

TC ? For Bruce

As we drive from Baltimore

to the shore, I'm reminded

Of the year I worked

With antique maps --

The year you were an intern.

I see Drayton's ''England,''

Each county marked by

An Elizabethan Queen,

Topheavy in a tipsy crown.

I imagine a queen of Maryland,

Enthroned by the harbor,

Her crown glittering over

Some office building,

thickly set with rubies

And pigeons' nests.

She faces east,

The Bay Bridge her bosom,

Kent Narrows her waist,

Some lace at Queen Anne,

And then button by button

To the ocean:

Denton, Harbeson,

The folds fan and flatten,

Until, at Rehoboth, her petticoats

Burst into surf.

You smile at my fantasy.

We are indulgent with each other,

United in the gentle venture

Of ''getting there safely.''

Not prey to conceits,

You like to handle the car,

Remark on corn, its pedigrees,

Note the geometry

Of irrigation machines.

Your personal landmarks include

The squat Rotarian Bar-B-Que,

And, near the state line,

That vine-covered bridge

I always forget.

Driving on, you nod toward

Long straight roads that explode

Into farms,

And stands of trees,

Dark-clustered breaths

On shallow land.

Now, our feet sluiced firmly in sand,

We are part of the shore,

fully arrived.

The evening tide foams

Through our toes,

and I see the clumsy Queens,

the faded water colors

Of their clothes,

The dusty shop in Charlottesville.

I see your face then, Love,

Pale in that first year,

The year you folded fantasy

Like a map

To slip

Into a back pocket.

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