We crossed the plowed field,
ARTICHOKE BEACH, CALIFORNIA
climbed down into a canyon filled
with the stench of rotting sea lion.
White bones pierced the brown hide.
We leaned into the cold spring wind
coming down from the Bering Sea
and wandered into the dunes.
You asked me to protect you against
tattooed men lying naked in a driftwood corral.
On smooth white rocks like bath tiles
that turned black and barnacled
as they collided with the spitting surf,
we ate linguini with our fingers
from a chinese to-go carton.
You whispered that my mind was a mass
of ebony clams, your heart an orange starfish
hanging below the mussel bed waiting
for the next tide to move into the city of shells.
My turquoise anemone, closed at your touch.
Your purple-spined sea urchin, shivered.
We walked the ruts of the artichoke field,
gathered driftwood for a fire.
You wanted the moon to peel away leaves
and strip the choke from the heart.
Copyright 2000, Mark McKain
Mark McKain's work has appeared in Press, Atlanta Review,
Pearl, Spillway, Spoken War, Zero City and
elsewhere. He writes for television and children's books.
Switched-on Gutenberg/Vol. 4, No. 2