On Spring Break the boys dig a hole in the sand,
they buy real shovels, they give real sweat
to the ocean when she comes to collect
and call it a game.
In return she lets them reach for her
without just running in. She lets them do it their way, by accident,
saying they were looking for China,
before resting a moment in the bit of her cheek
they’ve uncovered beneath their feet.
One night my friend wears pink sequins and tequila
she put on as a costume and never stripped off,
takes a walk with a boy down the beach.
They attempt to negotiate an irresistible impulse,
become impasse: They can’t touch
because she can’t exist
without eroding a bit of someone and he won’t
let himself breathe her in.
He knows she would be made of salt.
So instead she splays herself with us at the ocean’s edge.
He returns to the hole where men drink and trust
there are others beside them in the dark.
In the morning when we return
the hole has lost integrity,
has been weathered and stripped and filled
so the boys set to work
until it’s deeper, the walls smooth
With seats built into the tightly packed sand for rest when needed.
It can be exhausting there.
It’s like this every year. Another girl has a story she tells always
of a boy she knew who dug a hole,
hit an air pocket and it collapsed
around him, buried.
We watch our boys each year
dig and we laugh with them
and we worry — inside mostly,
so they won’t send us away.
We follow them into their hole and hold
their shovels when they need to drink or sit.
We breathe on their necks,
pretending it’s an accident,
to let them know we’re there.