V  P  R

Contemporary Poetry and Poetics





Death is restless.  He’s been sent on holiday,
Rx’d for R&R with strict instructions not
to practice.  Overwork.  He snorts and X’s

in another word—Sunday New York Times,
he trumps Will Shortz, a chap with whom
he’d like to cross a sword (épée) or two.

The August beach is rank with milling brats,
bark-suspicious mutts.  He tugs the trunks
that chafe his crotch, and yawns behind

a recently French-manicured right hand. 
Damn.  His pride’s at stake.  Blank-eyed behind
chic shades, Death reconnoiters.  Candy-striped

umbrella, wrinkled couple.  Piece of cake. 
Two oiled adolescents, rubbing thighs.  Ho-
hum.   But at tideline, a flock of young lads

skitters in the surf.  Breakers nip the smallest
fellow’s shins, plaster red trunks to skinny
thighs. A cowlick pops upright on the sun-

bleached scalp. . . Death gently taps a finger
on one knee.  The boy is what—maybe five? 
And best: slow-purpling lips, the color of

half-mourning.  Death’s soooo tempted.  Idly
calculates the physics of drag and speed. 
Nudges the next wave an airy hand-span

higher.  Whispers in the mother’s peeling ear—
she tugs her shoulder strap to check for red. 
Then lets her eyelids drowse.   Only now he turns,

intent on that child who lags through kelpy
water.  Death touches up the salt-sea rip,
weights the boy’s chilled limbs.  They’ll never guess. 

And settles in to wait, elbows propped on hot
sand.  Gulls whirl away above.  Now the deepest,
greenest roller breaking overhead.  Now

the soaked boy, whose suit slips just below
the tiny poke of hip.  Half-turned to the beach,
he seems to want to speak to someone

safe on shore.  Then he’s emptied, slow blur
under water.  Death slants a visor down
his brow, licks the pencil tip, and frowns

at blank squares on the abandoned page. 
Six-letter word: “to cause to be unoccupied.”  
Begins with V.

© by Judith Montgomery



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