Night 3 (The Tide Pool)

Laurel Snyder

You and I, we were beside a deep tide pool. A rock cliff towered gray and cold above us, but the sun was rising over the water, so there was no shadow, no shade. The cliff was high and the beach was wide and our pool was deep, though all the other tide pools were shallow and warm. Ours was a bowl, a teacup of still cold water. We sat,

looked into the bowl, but first could only see the surface. Hard and tight and smooth, the line where air met water seemed flawless. Only then one slender creature, one insect like a stray hair, creased the smooth. I set my eyes to look in, shifted my eyes and saw beneath, and the insect melted away in a moment. Deep and down was the bottom, was the color of the floor, was a bed of flowers.

A bowl deep with anemones, thick blossoms. All the colors of chrysanthemums, golds and purples, mums bunched closely in a fist, leaving no room, no place to slide a finger between, no way to pluck. A deep bowl of petals, and we beside the bowl. Beside the teacup’s steep rim. Me with my legs crossed beside me and you crouched like a cat, aimless and intent, hungry with no fish to follow, eyes darting.

I reached out an arm, couldn’t help it, pointed a finger, and the water swallowed my hand. We were full of open mouths, full of sun on shoulders and wonder and silence. We reached my finger down to grace a petal and the garden shivered. The petal was soft and she folded or withdrew or died.

We carved a path with our faintest touch, drew a light line with the back of my hand. I waved. The touch was almost something else, so faint as to resemble another sense. The back of my hand saw the flowers, my skin heard each petal, smelled each distinct moment of folding inward. But no pressure, no weight. We carved lightly, accidentally, and the color of the path we made was darker somehow, like velvet pushed the other way.

Then there was a man above us, naked in the sun., a landscape of bones and dark hair, so little like our bowl of color, our bed of water, our faint touch. His body was a voice, a rude noise, so much a naked man.

The man tried to kneel beside the bowl, but changed his mind. He paused, straightened and then walked down the beach, his arms crossed over his chest as though to contain something.

The bowl was still there but the day was changing. The insect was back, the sun was behind a cloud and the flowers were very far away. When we wondered where the man had gone to, we had to stand ourselves.