Poem 346 ± May 15, 2016

Cedric Tillman
light reading

everybody comes for the waves,
the stripes on the rented umbrellas
all go the same way, their walls
too sheer to keep secrets.

now she pats the chair to
give me just a little more time
as the surf swirls in,
a shush under the play of grandbabies,
their bowled bellies making molds
in tight one-piece suits,
breezes lift the blue frills, pink tails
would bloom with laughter
just over that water line
up and down this patch of beach
all day if they’d let them.

He keeps a thumb in the book
to hold a place,
reaches for the minus sign
on the speaker, says
Ma, check this out
low and somber,
like chatter in the pew.

She’s busy being glad the baby
is beyond the gauntlet of hot sand,
standing in something
that can cool bare feet.
He wonders aloud
Do you understand it?
He’s coming out to…

but she cuts him off,
says What would your daddy
and then trails off,
staring over the romp of the beach,
fumbling for something
in the wrong purse.

She starts again, expelling the air,
shaking her head,
looking right cute
beneath her straw hat.
When he says
I don’t know Ma,
it’s somethin’,
the water seeps away again,
caught in the act,
and the sun leans in close.
Anyone out of the water
is riveted with sweat.


Cedric TillmanCedric Tillman is the author of Lilies in the Valley (Willow Books, 2013). His poems have appeared in Rove, Iodine Poetry Journal, The Drunken Boat, Crosscut, Kakalak, and other journals, as well as in Home Is Where: An Anthology of African American Poets From the Carolinas (Hub City Press, 2011). He is a Cave Canem fellow, a two-time Pushcart Award nominee, and Discovery/Boston Review Poetry Contest semifinalist. He lives in Charlotte.

This poem is not previously published.