We never went to your father’s river
though far north of here we stood
on a jetty at the end of a normal day
while my mother took pictures of the sky.
Heartbreak is heartbreak at any age:
always too big to fit into a single person.
Pick any shell off this Cape Cod beach
and listen: the sound goes on forever although
every shell’s message is short: “I’m alive
and well” though it always arrives a lifetime
too late or should we assume the life is ours?
Sunset was so big, like a normal day’s sunset
with a bonus sunset for tourists, my mother
had to take another picture and another.
Still the sky wouldn’t fit. And in every photo
you and I stood among strangers like every
group that gathers by happenstance along water
and each held a shell and my mother took
their picture and wrote their names in a notebook
I found years later far from her photographs
and she told them how I laughed so heartily
as an infant people would interrupt my naps
just to watch me wake up and laugh and it
found its way into their heads so that even when
it left a memory had formed around it like a shell
and it was their own laughter saying I’m alive
and well and I wish you all well without your names
in my mother’s pictures with my father at her side