Volume 27, Number 2

Birds on the Beach

We’ve heard the police are flying
spring break drones
over South Padre Island.
Eyes on the beach, concentrating,
the undulating beer-swimming student body.
“It’s crazy,” my student said,
the week before vacation.
“Last year they flipped a car.”
“There’s something happening behind every door.”

Mothers volunteer to watch drone cams,
serve Red Bull and cappuccino cookies,
keep everyone alert at their screens.
We always lose a few students over the holiday
a fellow teacher said,
shaking my hand in the lunch room.
I watched him watch my eyes widening.
A few don’t make it back to class, he said.
I am an adjunct, so I left it there.

But I was thinking of the young student’s hair
On the first day, it was purple,
the next week brunette, and then she arrived a redhead.
I so love your hair, I said.
I wear wigs, she said.
When she disappeared,
when my emails went unanswered,
It was hard not to wish that my class
was her clandestine services training.
And in Texas, with Jade Helm 15 and all,
it’s really not that far-fetched.

I am the worrier in my family.
But I try not to let my students know.
And what about this eliminating mosquitoes,
when chemical companies may be to blame?
I watch my neighbor kneel to
place a swallow baby back in its hidden nest.
A mother will be back soon
flight heavy with mosquitoes and gnats.
The lengthening twilight carries
scissortail flycatchers, dipping and twisting.

Are you having these dreams, too?
Red paint peeling from a wooden seesaw,
a small child lifted by two small lovely birds.
In the dream they are evenly weighted,
rocking up and down, laughing.

—Loretta Marie Long