Sherod Santos reads

Variation on a Theme (I)

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1. The Pier
What she said was not what she meant to say.

As they side-stepped past
the rotting patches of giant kelp
the tide dragged up on the strand,

she held his hand, she admired
the fine-boned features of his face,
she studied the overlapping
shadows they cast.

He seemed less distant than preoccupied
(or was he simply shy?),
and his narrowing slightly cross-eyed stare
would rarely hold
on hers.

Nevertheless, two years younger,
she followed him into the shadows of the pier.
The joint, the condom,
the in not out of the body thing,
she’d heard about them
from the other girls.

But once they went their separate ways,
she was surprised to find
the throb of whatever she felt inside
was no bigger than a bottle fly.

2. Film Noir
A mist had settled over everything.

It was after ten, almost eleven.
A smudgy lamplight overran the curbs
where leaves had started
to gather as well.

Some young people
prowling the neighborhood
were afraid that nothing would happen tonight,
just as nothing
had happened the night before.

Although it was cold,
the boys wore cutoff sweatshirts,
and the girls,
more comfortably dressed for the weather,
kept laughing at things the boys said.

A car turned onto Millbrook Road,
dimmed and then extinguished its lights
before rolling to a stop in the leaves.

When the young people passed,
they banged on the hood with their fists—
the boys, not the girls,
though the girls were amused by this as well—
and frightened the man inside.

Or did they?

The car door opened.
The man stepped out and,
as killers do in Hollywood films,
slipped a hand inside his coat.

And then, in a quiet, almost whisper
of a voice, he said something
none of them could hear,
though how he said it
was the thing he said.

Without looking back,
the young people kept on walking,
though faster now,
kicking up leaves as they went.

And when they were finally
far enough away they were sure
the man couldn’t hear,
one boy turned and shouted back
“Oh yeah motherfucker,
we’re really scared.”

And that was that.
One of the girls drew closer to the boy
who’d said those words,
another drew farther away.