drowning at Nauset




On the way over

Robyn told a story

that put an end

to conversation

if only temporarily;

something about a duck

pecked to death

in a botanical garden

by a species

other than its own.


It tried in its own language

to communicate

its terror and despair

quacking without pause

flapping its useless wings

at Robyn’s feet

its garden a Babel

not of its own making.


Nauset glowed

in the afternoon sun.

Golden and desolate

the sea broke

in its habitual roar

and suck

of undertow.

Nothing can stop it.


A little knot of people

gathered in the soupy

froth at the ocean’s ebb,

quacking, flapping.

We watched them carry

the boy out of the sea.

His face was white and blank

his limbs hung useless

as they laid him on the shining



All of his freckles stood out

like punctuation points,

something used to close

a sentence.

Words escape me.


On the long drive home

the heavy traffic

sluiced like a tide

from points

east and west

merging endlessly into itself

at rush hour.

Nothing can stop it.

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  1. David Byler says:

    WOW!!!! powerful !!!

  2. Kris says:

    Yikes. Given the dark nature of this piece, I, too, am at a loss for words at the moment…Definitely not your light summertime read, this one!

  3. Stephanie Silber says:

    It is more than the sum of its parts. Like all storytelling, the writer doesn’t tell you everything! Symbols, metaphors, and all the other tools available are meant to convey something you may find at the tip of your mind. Language is at its very heart, and all that language means. This piece was light saturated despite its grim “events.” Like life itself, perhaps? Thanks for weighing in.

  4. Stephanie Silber says:

    Thank you, David. Coming from a spiritual guy like you, that means a lot.

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