Begin with a cottage on the beach,
a faded two story house,
crusted in yellow shingles,
a block from the ocean with a roof
like a Chinese pagoda
and a screened in porch on three sides.
Outside of the front door,
sea grass and slack sand,
an unfinished game from yesterday,
mallets scattered across a lawn
surrounded by a chest high hedge,
aged and bowed from
the constant salt wind.
A red wind chime hangs from the porch,
with eight glass bars swinging
gently in a breeze
heavy with the smell of surf salt
and fried food from stands that lined the beach.
A stray collie dog lay panting at the foot
of the wooden stairs,
while in a bedroom at the top of the stairs
a man lies naked
on white sheets smoking a cigarette.
There is a woman, also naked,
sleeping with her head on his chest.
As he smokes, the man carelessly strokes
the remaining dimples of water
dotting her back and stares up
at the lines and angles of the white ceiling
until it seems he’s looking down
from some high place; a plane or hilltop.
From where he lies,
he can just make out the tops
of the other houses and he imagines
his neighbors moving their way
through the late August afternoon.
The room is pure white,
with curtains swaying in the breeze
from the open window,
while the smoke from his cigarette
turns blue as it rises through
bars of sunlight to the ceiling.
the same man is lying fully
clothed on a bed in a city hotel.
It is evening and the only light
in the room comes from street pastels
and a blinking red sign at an angle
outside of his window.
He’s lying in the bed
waiting for a friend
and soon they will go to dinner,
but as he waits,
he watches the shadows on the ceiling
and either that reminds him
of the wind chimes
or perhaps it is some combination
of smells and sounds from the street.
But for a moment,
he clearly hears wind chimes,
sees the swaying curtains
in that summer bedroom,
even feels the faint pressure
of a woman’s head resting on his chest.
But then it slips by
and in its place he has an awareness
of all the complicated turnings of his life,
and he wonders if what
he had seen as progress was
only a scrambling after circumstance,
like a boy trying to scramble
into the back of a moving truck,
and while he doesn’t regret his life,
he grieves for what was lost,
all that he had to let go.
He thinks of the face of the ocean
and of the clapboard house,
and he wishes he were back
in his former life or that one could take
a moment and remain inside it like an egg
inside its shell
instead of constantly being hurried
into the future by good luck or bad.
Again, he hears the wind chimes,
even sees them hanging in the dark
with their eight glass bars
and red oriental designs.
He even imagines a salt breeze
rushing over him,
but then the wind chimes begin to fade,
until they are no more than a speck
of dying light which finally blinks out
as his friend starts hammering at the door
and his whole busy life rushes forward
away from the salt breeze
that put him into the only
real sleep he had ever known.