Breath & Shadow
A Journal of Disability Culture and Literature
by Todd Hanks
The salt spray of her kiss stung his ocean and
wind-burned lips softly, like first hunger pains of a fast.
How long did that summer day's kiss last?
The seconds and centuries of the ocean were wrapped
like wet wind around him. That day white sails scissored
waves like skirting glances.
She was hard to catch, in damp, white dress. She climbed
jutting crags against which waves pounded like fists, and
exploded into cascading fountains of ivory like beautiful bombs.
The woman laughed and climbed from hot white sand up a cliff side
trail. The bluff was dark and rutted like a craggy, pock-marked face.
Long reeds blew away from the sea far below. A white bird lay there
twisted, dead and bleeding on the rocks.
She knelt carefully to it.
"Look, a broken dove."
She squeezed its head together and traced their names in
brains and blood. For months through ocean storm and rain
the names in brain and blood remained, and often he would go
alone to climb the rock and read his own. In the winter season
wind cold, driven rain slapped his face red. The paint-chipped
blue sun umbrellas that lined the deserted beach guarded the
impassive ocean like one hundred eyes of Argus.
In summer castles were built then taken back by waves.
At night gulls screamed insane laughter, chasing whitecaps
through silver moonlight. The wind sang songs of sunken
treasures, and shadowed pillars of underwater cities, sea songs of
creatures that stir in the dark, past coral gardens in mysterious light,
where the reefs drop off to eternal night. The tone of the wind was like
notes of flutes carved from the bones of drowned sailors.
Through days of sun and hurricane the bloody names in brain remained,
and downy pinions, white as snow, stayed freshly slain upon the stone.
Like Lancelot for two years he wandered insane, making love to his pain.
His eyes were dark stones on the beach. He entered pain nightly from the
grasping her hair like the midnight mane of a black mare kicking moonlit
Then after a last, long caress, his hands smoothed the
wrinkles of that year's black dress. A storm broke
finally, and he didn't know why. The red eyes of the tempest
faded to sunshine, and beautiful people walked along the
beach like the scattered pieces of a dream. He climbed to the
cliff overlooking the sea, to find the dove by the blowing reeds,
and there weren't even bleached bones to remind him.
Todd Hanks lives in the Ozarks and is schizophrenic. His creative writing has appeared in publications such as Asimov’s Science Fiction and the Kansas City Star.