Your nipples are like pencil erasers, the poet says, and you say OK, that’s a first.
But since he’s a poet and an old one at that you’d expect him to make up an elegy of sorts on the spot as more and more of the pale water draws back, revealing a gum line of sand and rock and pastel colored coral heads, a long stretch of reef then more rock, and the humps of dead fish like they’re tiling the sea floor, belly up and shining all silvery in its wake.
Last night when you brought the old poet back to his hotel he stood on his tiptoes in the elevator and stuck his tongue down your throat, then when the elevator doors sighed open he marched out in front of you like this was his due, into the waiting arms of his chipmunk-cheeked wife. Perhaps one day he’ll write a line for you, she chirped, winked, then fastening the leash around his neck, black leather with sequins glistening like grains of sand, escorted her husband to their room.
Now though, instead of an elegy the old poet makes a sound like Ohhhhh wrenched out of the hole of his mouth, and he grabs his flabby chest, sinking down on his knees in front of the vast expanse of beach as the water shrinks back and back and back until it’s a blink on the horizon, like he’s praying to this new waterless world. And you can’t not remember it, clutching the mahogany urn with your brother’s ashes against your chest in the back seat of your father’s Plymouth, your mother up front and she’s asking you who you are with, over and over until you name it, your brother, grit and bone and the dry little chunks of him that hours later, the funeral done and everyone gone, you would drizzle into this ocean that is no more, his name on your tongue unrelenting as a song that keeps replaying, a rerun whose images will never again be new; the taste of this absence, like nothing at all.