What the Ocean Does

by C.J. Harrington

That Time at That Party

Here, ocean sunrises drift to hot-sand afternoons. And evenings are easy. Follow song rhythms. Listen for loud talk, laughter. Every bonfire has bottle-filled coolers and roving eyes. Before you see me, I see you: sketching shape-shifting (yellow) flames. We are sitting by a fire. We are just here for the summer. We are here for tequila shots and lime. We expect fuzzy next morning recollections. We don’t expect our conversation to last all evening.

That Time at the Nature Center

When you visit my internship, I show you birds so vivid (blue, lime-green, red) we call them painted. They inhabit edges of cabbage palm forests and forage for seeds in meadows. Small hands tug big hands, while asking about mini-golf or ice cream after this obligatory tour. Big hands slip tips since I’m stationed here. I would rather be up a tree counting butterflies.

That Time We Walked in the Woods

Behind the nature center, when we walk, in these woods, on these planks, this breeze-through-leaves (you teach me) makes a kind of singing. Light peaks, shadows recede in traceable, infinite intricacies. Though you do not know their names (I do), you love these trees in ways I cannot. And the tree that I hug (before we kiss) becomes (from that photo I love of you) squeezed by your hands into little ink lines. Stilled into symbolism.

That Time at the Beach

Beneath, my spine becomes sand, while you illuminate the moon. The night blooms (violet). Your fingers cling. Waves sway (moon-yellow). We did not expect to feel what the ocean does. We did not expect to become the sky.

That Time We Wandered

On this too-hot afternoon, even the waves lap slow, and the air turns syrup-thick. We are supposed to be going somewhere. Roads fan like branches (let’s go walk among the trees that sing), cutting paths to high-priced t-shirt shops, higher-priced tees and greens (let’s go to the lighthouse). We have no map to lead us away from this maze.

That Time You Painted Circles

We wake craving sweetness, saying (lying) it’s the salt of the air (it’s our sweat and our tears), and so we walk. At the doughnut shop, we find toddlers on tiptoes peering through glass to choose confections. Later, after napping (such a late hot night) I seek you in the shed turned summer studio. You paint bright circles, the mystery of the continuous, the center emptiness that can’t be known. Now salt craving, I lick the bones of your bare shoulders but leave your hands free to shape creation.

That Time I Lost My Keys

At the beach, screens slap closed on open porches, and no one locks doors. So when I leave my keys on my bureau, in your studio, on the back deck (distracted again by you) I accept the fluster. You sketch me a set that can’t go missing. Something to remember.

That Time We Flew

A last goodbye-saying day. Practical. Neither came here looking for this. You shoot hoops over bottlenecks to win me a stuffed gorilla. I lick my two-scoop ice cream (strawberry, peach) uneven, so it collapses to pavement. Next, I ride the merry-go-round. Waving and smiling at you. But you want a different kind of circling, something faster. Those high-flying swings that scare me. This one time is for you. And they fling us so wide apart we can’t hold hands.

C.J. Harrington’s s fiction and poetry has been featured in many journals including Blast Furnace, Rose Red Review, The Vehicle, Gone Lawn, and The Best of Vine Leaves Literary Journal 2014. She is a member of the Winding River Writers’ Workshop, a group of advanced creative writers in the Shenandoah Valley. You can find her on Twitter @_CJHarrington.