Beach Totem

On borrowed time, it stands
for all you have left
behind, something nameless

in the name of the washed-up,
the lapsed and forgotten,
remnants joined to give loss,

no matter how tough
or random, another shot
at consequence, roughed out

of driftwood and plastic,
fabric and metal, detailed
with seaweed and egg sac,

feather and shell,
excess rescued from
the depths where passion

has always been raw
material for what doesn’t last
but builds as if it will.



A figure-8 formed by recording the sun’s position from the same place at the same time of day at regular intervals for a year.

As if its radiant sound
could make meaning slowly
dawn on me,
I drew the word out
loud through your still life room,
just for the rhythm
at first, but then for that
tone the unknown
sets when knowledge is yet
to come, in this case 9 down
on the crossword
puzzle left beside your bed,
merging a mother’s horizon
with the journey of the sun.

Barry Sternlieb’s work has appeared in publications including Poetry, the Sewanee Review, the Southern Review, and New England Review. His chapbook Winter Crows won the 2008 Codhill Press Poetry Prize.

Also by this author

Please email comments to [email protected] and join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Published in the May 1, 2015 issue: View Contents
© 2024 Commonweal Magazine. All rights reserved. Design by Point Five. Site by Deck Fifty.