Wendy Lee Spacek


Down by
my hometown’s tiny public beach,
my dad and his wife in
matching red shirts
chain smoking
on a picnic table bench
in the shade of the pavilion.
I am walking down to the water,
stashing my sandals in the grass.
I want to touch Lake Michigan
on the summer solstice.
Pass to it a message.
The beach is squirming with many human bodies, babies supine on blankets,
wiggling in the shade of their strollers. Children splashing ecstatic
in rippling sooty water, three separate scratchy Bluetooth speakers croaking top
forty, teenagers tugging at each other’s swimsuits.
Steel mills flank the narrow beach, per hour pumping out ten thousand gallons
of boiling water, merging with the lake
in a kind of restless, steaming estuary.
This beach is disappearing because
the lake is rising. Because man-made
structures contribute to erosion
and interrupt the cycle that
causes sand to collect on the beach
and forms the dunes.
Ever-more extreme storms forming
twenty ft waves that pound the beach
and rake the loamy soil into the lake.
I send my love to the honorable anonymous person
who put up fences, signs, asked that people not climb
the steep sandy mounds, not roll down the sides of their rapidly shifting complexity.
The dunes, they are really human swallowing beings, the sign reads.
Later, my dad is telling a long, quiet,
minutely detailed story about every
thing he did that day.
How he got up at 5 am.
My brother didn’t call yet.
How he cleaned a finger-length filter with a
toothbrush, ten times.
It purifies the oils
that lubricate the wheels
of the machine
that grinds
the rolls
Called an electrician
from another department
to recalibrate a ceiling crane
that refused to move from east to west.
I watch his wife
listen intently, looking
into his eyes, silent, nodding
the whole time,
though she has heard a story like this
every day for over ten years.
Later, my dad
shows me a picture
from the day I was born.
He has cut out my mother’s face.
She is a woman in a plaid robe, holding my newly formed body like a bag of ice.