Waves grind the shoreline and darken into pools.
Crabs shuffle sideways, lost in the washed-up eelgrass.
Seagulls spit littleneck clams to the rocks
and don’t even eat the shattered bodies.
They fly as high as the clouds and wrap talons
in the wind. But this kind of love isn’t rare.
When I dream about my brother he disappears
if I look. He wears a bird-bone bracelet,
but I only know this by feel. Even his hair
is something I imagine. His nose occurs solely
as contours. I walk down the beach
and throw stones at the oncoming waves.
This is the best we can do. We leak every time
we are opened. Out just beyond the waves,
love says the same of itself. We can only witness
the implication, only feel for the shape.
Love is a pigeon nestled beside a dead pigeon
at night in the wet corner of a warehouse.
Blackness and the texture of feathers.
The thud of a body surrounded by hollow.
Love is a clamshell’s first touch against rock,
whatever tenderness can be found in that contact
before the crack. It’s been years since I was last
out on the water. The night sky tightens
like that familiar mouth. Clouds hide their bulk
on the backsides of islands. Each wave is real
the way his body is real. Made of something
not itself. Something bigger. Call it water.
Call it wind. Call it tendon-flexing of the moon.
Each wave lifts as he lifts, crashes as he crashes.
Love exists in the way seagulls hold still
in the wind. The way crabs carry pieces of clam
through the moonlight and vanish sideways into sand.
Anders Carlson-Wee is a 2015 NEA Fellow and the author of Dynamite, winner of the 2015 Frost Place Chapbook Prize. His work has appeared in Ploughshares, New England Review, AGNI, Poetry Daily, The Iowa Review, The Missouri Review, Best New Poets, The Best American Nonrequired Reading, and Narrative Magazine, which featured him on its “30 Below 30” list of young writers to watch. Winner of Ninth Letter’s Poetry Award, Blue Mesa Review’s Poetry Prize, and New Delta Review’s Editors’ Choice Prize, he was runner-up for the 2016 Discovery/Boston Review Poetry Prize. His work is currently being translated into Chinese. He lives in Minneapolis, where he’s a 2016 McKnight Foundation Creative Writing Fellow.
“Shoalwater” first appeared in The New England Review.