and we watched them floating there

My friend E. recommended this book of poems: Something I Expected to Be Different by Joshua Beckman, which I was finally able to pick up on my NYC sojourn.

It is beautiful and brilliant and overflowing with moments of heartbreak. These final sections of the last poem, “Block Island” take my breath away each time I read them:


Good-bye perfumed touch of summer

the light was so responsive

finding gold and green in beach grass

and purple and white the wild roses

and time in the night to get lonely

before sleeping and acceleration

for sparrows and motorcars

when they need it and rest

to your breath the addition

of catching one’s friends

up on one’s new life is this plus that

equals something I expected to be different

more passionate more fragrant and

willful, more open-mouthed sweet-lipped


      and there was the ocean

                   which came from beneath us

our lives just floating there

         and we watched them floating there

I think of this summer and the way it has brought people from the past back to me. And the ways in which I picked back up with them, the details of our lives shared without hesitation. And yet the years in between are so full, so heavy - with beauty and sadness; with anger, despair. With moments of joy. With boredom, confusion and the dullness of an afternoon spent in chores of one sort or another. With possibilities that did not find their way. With plans and aspirations and hopes that either did, or did not come to fruition. All the things we expected to be different. 

I think of the days spent on the beach. The whole month of June, it seems, was spent in the sand. I think of the poets who came into town, somewhat unexpectedly, our friends from graduate school who stayed with us. And we took them down to Narragansett and watched W. play in the sand in all his reckless abandon. 

We spent the afternoon there, watched the light move through the sky, talked about the beginnings of some things and the ends of some others. The people we knew in common. The paths their lives had taken. The things we still wanted to squeeze out from this life. Sometimes, you could hear the urgency in our voices. 

Their visit was this lovely unexpected thing: We did not realize how much we had missed them until they had gone, again. I had forgotten the delight of the horror movie nights. And the dinners, the folding tables dragged up from basements to make room for the whole unruly bunch of us.

And how expectations about the grand arcs of our lives: they will be what they will be, but sometimes, the mere fact that we are there, together, sharing an afternoon as it turns to evening, is what we get. And that, I am learning, is no small thing.