On a Beach Below the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, 1974 – by Jane Shlensky

Last night, pitching our tent in a downpour,
we don’t know this is a nude beach.
Only today, when other beach dwellers rise
early to help my friend chase a thief
that took her pocketbook, do we realize
we alone are clothed, the day bitingly cold,
the crashing waves slate gray.

Among these college kids stands one older man,
gray-haired, sagging, who pulls on
a pair of baggy shorts, comforts my friend,
and makes us breakfast on a camp stove.
“So many stories on this beach,” he says,
scrambling eggs and warming bread.

He had been a film executive in LA
whose son went missing from this place
twelve years ago. “Did you find him?”
we can barely ask, seeing tragedy folded into him,
his knotted hair, sallow skin, and empty eyes.
“No, I think perhaps he is dead,” he says.
“I stay because sometimes I feel him here,
and these young people are kind to me.”

 

Jane Shlensky, a veteran teacher and musician, holds an MFA from UNC-Greensboro. Her recent poetry and fiction has appeared in sundry magazines and anthologies, including Writer’s Digest, Pinesong, moonShine review, and Nostos. NC Poetry Society and Kakalak have thrice nominated her poems for a Pushcart. Her chapbook is Barefoot on Gravel.