The lady who smokes by the trash
is waiting, a single cigarette in her palm,
unrushed, she could take it or leave it,
her gaze steady and friendly enough.
She does not rest on the wood slat bench,
also private, where hummingbirds might sip
at the lipstick colored feeder, and
mulberry trees drip over laundry lines.
Instead she stares down the row of open or shut
garage doors, her small spine pressed
against the bricks. She faces the bins,
where I toss a green bag of dog shit.
Alone in the sea, belly flooded by chill
liquid — what if I freeze and can’t move?
Fear swims to the briny curve of always
and all that ever was leaves my toes.
The beach empties, children rub sand
off volleyballs, lovers burrow in the dunes.
The ocean, calmer now that waves give up
the urgency of the day, is mine.
I pillow my head on its infinity
and witness the mural of clouds in pink light.
My hair expands around my skull like kelp,
drifting so freely that each tug of impulse
checks itself at the root and sends
a fin-tip of polar ice down my neck.
Susan Pittman writes poetry and fiction from her home in Seattle. She earned a BFA from Emerson College and a M.S. Ed. from Simmons College, both in Boston. She also studied at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA. After a career in journalism and education, she now writes full-time and teaches part-time. She has published poetry in Chronogram.