The beach carries scattered remains of the night—
a bedsheet, a beach blanket etched in sand. The shore
quivers with discarded cigarette butts, ash
of weed, ash of tobacco, a soup of bottles—
mostly plastic, some glass—water, beer, champagne,
more than one condom—crumpled, disheveled,
used or not. I walk lifting each item as artifact,
I struggle to shelve judgment and my instinct
to churn each into myth. Orbs of sunlight reveal
chicken bones, fish skeletons, the chipped halfshell
of a mussel, one ghost crab leg. We combed
the beach one year, throwing larger refuse
into large trash bags, then sifting through sand
for hidden debris the way we knew how to as mothers—
grain by grain, as we’d parted our children’s hair
many times that year lifting nits and eggs
from soft threads, from hair which had not yet
known gel and dye. That day my son found
a lucky seed from Cuba via Africa, one that holds
the evil eye at bay, all who would cause him harm,
and a rosary made of brown crystals, each bead intact,
with a Christ, sullen, surrendered, spinning.
The ocean washes up more than memory.
What is held by sand travels into the ocean’s body
and returns not as waste, not as sacrament. I would
not let him throw them out. How could I?
He was too young to know faith,
he who had never needed to pray.



Catherine Esposito Prescott is the author of the chapbooks Maria Sings and The Living Ruin. Recent poems appear in Green Mountains Review Online, NELLE, Pleiades, Stirring: A Literary Collection, Verse Daily, The Orison Anthology, and Grabbed: Writers Respond to Sexual Assault. Prescott is co-founder of SWWIM and Editor in Chief of SWWIM Every Day.

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