Theresa Boyar

Sex on the Beach

It had always appealed to you,
the glamor of it on the big screen. 
Clasped bodies oblivious
to the waves that cymbal-crashed
around them.  The whole ocean
getting in on it churn, froth, and splash.
But when it came down to it,
there were sand fleas
and a boy on top of you
who had been told you were easy.
Beneath you, a smudged plastic tarp
from his trunk and there were noises
from the stand of pines
that the boy tried to explain away
as racoons or opossums. 
You would have been okay if he had just said racoons.
Or even if he had said opossums. 
It was the or that bothered you, his uncertainty
that made you consider further possibilities:
or a twitchy masturbator eyeing every grope and fumble,
or a serial killer waiting for his moment.
There was a night jogger who startled you
into shame and for whose benefit
you sat up and feigned interest in the sky.
Is that Orion or Cassiopeia?
There were the boy's fingernails, packed
with sand, that left a trail of irritation,
sand burns the shape of worms
on your inner thighs, labia.  There was his blonde
surfer hair sweeping your eyes
and his smell of sweat and banana
tanning oil. There was a layer
of your own sweat and sand distancing
you from the tarp and it was into this space
that the boy slid his penis, saying
See, that's not so bad, is it?
and it was ridiculous
and you laughed out loud
which was the wrong thing to do
because the boy who had been told you were easy
thought you were laughing at him, which,
if we're going to be honest, you were,
and he brooded his way back to the car while you
hopped along behind him, apologizing, but not really
meaning it, scratching your flea bites and adjusting
your underwear and you didn't bother
to point out to him the couple
further down the beach, the way the ocean
foamed around them, the way their bodies held
the moon's reflection so their skin
rippled out a pure rhythm of light.


Say the word and I'm in. 
The fault-line spine and knuckle-locks,
the smell of things burning, of things burnt,
that cataract eye sizing you up,
divining what she needs to destroy you.
Don't we all burn
for that kind of power? 

But somewhere along the line, things changed. 
Somehow, she became something else,
stopped sweeping the stars
with her broom and emerged
in your mother's kitchen.  A once-witch
whisking cinders from the linoleum,
dusting the husband,
who wanted her once. 
It was a different world.

She remembers how he used to worship her,
how he was bent on proving his devotion,
wanting her good eye to look on him,
wanting her love, wanting her to believe
in the hard fact of his love. 
He knelt down before her as if to pray. 
That's when he left
his little packet of twigs,
his struck match.

What We Have to Lose

What We Have to Lose After the stowing of luggage overhead,
the obligatory chat with passengers nearby,
you plug in your headphones and drift
until you're somewhere else entirely,
no longer attached to your body, its infinite
island dragging through streaked sky.     

You awaken over Utah and notice the clouds,
bunched together and shifting too slowly for human eyes. 
You're watching the plane tip its wing into them,
the way a thief might pat a distrustful dog,
when there's a flash and rattle in the cabin,
and the first thing that crosses your mind
is someone's throwing a party. 

The mask straps are streamers for a dangling
second and you're frozen, watching mothers
ignore earlier instructions to secure
their own devices first.  Every child
on the plane is howling by the time
a sugar-voiced stewardess announces
the masks were freed by mistake. 
All is well.  No problems.

There is uneasy laughter, sighing
from breathless mothers, talk somewhere
behind you of the potential for a lawsuit. 
You return to headphones, the window,
the clouds now as distant
from dogs as they were intended.

An hour later, you're in the airport,
surrounded by bumping suitcases,
your own luggage stagnant beside you. 
You scrutinize the crowd, but no matter
where I stand, your eyes fan past me. 
We're tangled in our own clumsy tragedy
while around us, other passengers
continue on, oblivious as clouds,
noticing no disturbance, no attempt
to save what hasn't yet been lost.


In the sterile seconds
before it begins, I find
the butter knife, crumbed with bits
of English muffin, a circular tea stain
on the desk.  The trash which should have been
hiked to the curb the night before last
cultivates a personality by the back door.
Messages from old boyfriends
blink from the answering machine
and jam the e-mail.  A thick ham
thaws in the fridge
and my energy-efficient washer gnaws
a thirty-dollar bra.  When the first sounds
arrive, they seed the room,
a dark army composting air,
scissoring time, and the only thing,
it seems, that matters after that
is how long I can get away
with lounging in the black forest of each note.

Theresa Boyar's poems, essays, and short fiction have appeared in The Florida Review, Rattle, The Adirondack Review, Stirring, Small Spiral Notebook, Eclectica, and Pierian Springs.  She is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee and is currently at work on a collection of short stories.  Theresa lives with her husband and two sons in Helena, Montana.


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