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Rockaway Beach
Rochelle Shapiro

Photo by  Ryan Wilson  on  Unsplash

Photo by Ryan Wilson on Unsplash

The sand sparkled like white mica. The beach
stretched beneath and beyond the boardwalk. Back then,
before your mother’s hangovers caused the sun
to make her head feel pounded like the puck
of the strongman game at Playland, she
was there with you—offering bologna sandwiches
on Kaiser rolls and peaches whose sweet juice
ran down your chin. 

Back then, when she rose
from her beach chair, the weave imprinted itself
on the backs of her jiggly thighs. She’d stand
ankle-deep in the water, shading her eyes
to watch that you didn’t drown. 

Decades later, when your mother
is in a psych ward, jabbering, tied
to her railed bed, you see her
lips: opening, closing like a fish, 
her hands fisted into claws, her eyes
sealed. But you remember
the times she’d wade out to teach you
to float—her arms becoming your raft,
you squinting into her smiling face, 
her blue eyes looking larger
with her dark hair covered
by her white bathing cap.

Rochelle Jewel Shapiro's novel Miriam the Medium (Simon & Schuster), 2003) was nominated for the Ribelow Award. Her second novel, Kaylee's Ghost, was a 2012 Indie finalist.  She teaches writing at UCLA EXTENSION.