Democracy Beach

Fall, 2022 / No. 50

Do you lay out your bedsheet, floral and faded

Does the man beside you like baseball 

or wear this badge for protection

Do you vote the same 

though you speak different languages 

Does the guy with the tattooed back 

fly the dragon kite

to try to reach God 

where drones are not permitted

Do the red-headed twins 

in modest one-pieces covertly twerk 

when away from family 

Did you see the woman who is paler than the sun 

with the twinkle of her phone in hip pocket 

the music of a hundred likes 

glinting through white linen 

Do you believe it’s the saddest year of her life

Is nudity contagious

Do we all remove our shirts at once

Do the plump and old enjoy the beach 

any less than the slim and young 

Do you want to know the name 

of the colour the flag whispers 

to a sky whose head is turned away

a curl of hairy cloud 

Do you grow thirsty for the salt 

of your news feed 

Do you not want to be in the hot 

gritty now of our lives 

Do you sprint for the awesomeness of ocean

like a teen boy, Boogie Board tight to chest 

Forget all shark footage, laughing teeth 

Do you see that the eyes of the lovers 

are the same, like the sable stones they throw 

or do you cover your face with a cloth and sunbathe

Are you the type to end the season on unhappiness

Do you suck the seashells 

Do you empty your shoes of promises

Do you lose something 

Do you hold your head underwater 

choosing the darkness 

Do you read Emily St. John Mandel or Roxane Gay 

or do you read nothing or do you read the clouds

Do you photograph the thin line 

of ocean and sky and your parents in front of it 

one of whom will die next year 

Did you see that sarah and samira 

disappear the same, neither name 

having staying power in sand

when water fills the finger-furrowed letters

Do you sip secrets

like the lady with the wide brim 

or sunscreen your hefty breasts 

with the talent of hands that dip 

so quick, hands that have served 

more customers than you can fathom

that have made perfect change all her life 

Surely nobody you pass today could be the one

to carry and place the bomb

The sky would darken over them

and the seagulls shriek mad songs

Do you hold the sandy hands of children 

who do not believe in danger

Do you test the water while 

your brother eats his anger 

Far out there, is the black whale waiting 

Will the woman with bikini and braised 

pregnant belly endure the ocean cold

and will her skin kick with each swell

Should she decide at just that moment 

the name for the baby

Do you think fate is in the wind 

that rushes the waves, quickening them 

Does the ocean want 

to detach your hair like seaweed 

Does it slap you harder 

than your mother did

And when you return home 

under a starved moon 

do you breathe again 

that hardwood kitchen dust

Do you enter your own space, careful 

to carry the sandy towel to the tub 

to shake out all the hard granules 

of the gentle day?