We were walking tangled in our fingers
when we saw a sun-baked local
with no chin and high cheek bones
cleaning his day's catch. It wasn't
the beached fish that frightened me,
but the way the man hacked at its eyes
with his simple blade, explaining,
Or else it will float,
as if it were looking at the skies,
before he threw head, tail and spine
back into the night water.
As we continued down shore
in constant study of the waves' steady bargain,
I tried to imagine the buoyancy
in the stark eyes of the dead fish
and the place where all unattached things sink
to some greater meaning
when we came upon a man
(a sallow-cheeked instrument of precision
I imagined a mathematician),
standing ankle deep
in his stiff flowered shirt: broken palms
and empty-throated parrots
that refused to lie like paradise.
I watched him start to move
a slow waltz in the receding shore,
mapping out equations with his feet.
Staring with stark eyes into the skies
that somehow seemed different
from where he was standing then.
He held out his arms
as if to hold someone or thing
that left him long ago with his numbers.
And I couldn't help but wonder
if he believed
he understood infinity
like he understood love. Like forever
wrapped in doll's hair.
Standing there in the night shore
to unlock some coming together,
like a hackneyed teenager
carefully placing his feet
in the diagrammed, paper cut-outs, hoping
to find romance in the shallow patterns.