Scull Bay

Max McDonough

Under the moon wrapped in gauze,
with one white bird out in the marsh hay
stalking shimmers beneath the water,
my little brother and I are filling beach buckets
with junk from the salt mud: silt-clogged
pocket lighter, stopwatch
stopped, an otherwise pretty doll
head, eyelids bobbing seizure-like
when I tilt it in my hand. Our plan
is to sell the stuff roadside, buy
escape tickets with the money, we think—
we oldest two who can hardly
stand each other, me often pinning his arms
under my knees, jabbing his chest, calling
the dog to lick his open mouth
while our mother shouts from the computer
upstairs, or argues with our father
about a broken door hinge, the unwanted family
reunion next month, his garage-hidden
handle of vodka. Cigarette smoke
chokes her closed office like the fog swirling
blue over the bay-tide here
drawn into itself like a secret.
Half an hour into walking, my foot finds
the point-tip of a gnawed-up jig
in the mud. Its decapitated hook,
like a barbed nail, pierces my flip-flop an inch
into my left heel, the skin quick to
rip inward and ooze. But I can’t
pull it out. Limping, useless, I call off
the search, less than half a bucket-full each,
upsetting my brother who still
wants to keep looking, not knowing
for what exactly, in the trash and sand
running longer than we can follow, in the marsh
with its lone white bird who won’t
turn her head, the shelved moon too wounded
to blink, distant and precious
as my brother’s life is to me, our lives
to each other, though we can’t
see it, not yet.