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ELEGY AS EVENING, AS EXODUS /James Harms North of Malibu The Pacific is nothing like its name. For one thing, there are no sUences, despite the palm trees leaning into stillness. Poppies rise like fire from the chaparral on the bluffs, the manzanita, the oU in its leaves. And every few yards a stubborn yucca, late blossoms struggling to catch up at the edge of whatever, this modern earth, tectonic rafts supping north and west, the ocean torn into white lace. Tan knees tucked beneath my chin, tan knees like a boy's, I sat watch through the afternoon, staring at the islands: Anacapa, San Miguel, CataUna to the south. I heard a phone ring, a buoy beU, sun dissolving into sea. I heard a name escape its word, the wind between waves. The islands were rose and gray in the last Ught of a last Tuesday, the rock around me dark and trembUng, volcanic. I sat in the splash zone, black urchins tucked into wet crevices at my feet, a keyhole limpet next to my left hand. And though you would suppose the islands would vanish into the channel when the sun did, for hours I could see their shapes, like whales sleeping peacefuUy on the horizon, like ships. Ships waiting for enough Ught, for safe passage, for cargo. For aU of us. The Missouri Review · 191 DECADENCE: Newport Beach, California / James Harms Sure it's bright, a good day by some standards. A chüd staggers past on plastic skates stiU stepping instead of rolling, obUvious to her own blonde hair exploding in the wind, to the crowd of joggers piling up behind her, who run in place and check their watches as if her balance is their custody, a crystal vase they must carry for the time it takes her to work out this new knowledge. Another kid plays with a saU on the beach, gets tangled up in canvas on the slim strip of sand. He looks like a tiny mummy, but no one's watching so no one's scared, except him: he fears the tide's soft fingers, the Christmas Ughts floating in the sticky water, a plastic wine glass, a strand of kelp. And it's hard to breathe. Such a long Ust of fears, reaUy, for one so young. And Larry the can man can't stand it, Larry the can man who owns this particular route, who is screaming about the noise the sun is making and he's got a point: it's hard to hear the Ught dancing on the water with aU this glare. 192 · The Missouri Review So when the century ends instead of the world and we sip our last beers on the pier, the strange gold Ught like dust on the water— And there she goes, a woman tan beyond beauty somewhat drunk and srruling; she walks off the dock as if feigning disgrace. In aU the confusion, her infant son crawls away and finds the abandoned saU, lifts it up, disappears. WhUe around us the houses huddle in the wind, which tears the sun from the Uttle skater's hair and rips the harbor into pieces chips of Ught between the boats like bottle glass on broken pavement. Larry waUs for broken bottles but he's seeing things, he's looking right at us. No. It's the ocean over our shoulders; he's looking at that. James Harms The Missouri Review · 193 IN ANY COUNTRY / James Harms an Epithalamium Rain in a wineglass left on the window sUl. Ifs noon, she's making coffee, a sheet wrapped around her shoulders. She knows which song is next on the record, begins to sing softly. He is half-sleeping on the sofa, humming "Harborcoat" into the sleeve of his robe, his face striped with surdight through half-closed blinds. She remembers summer somewhere else, a fountain, a square in the center of a city: the folding wooden chairs, the old men in heavy shoes, black jackets over their arms, playing cards or taking sun. She is dancing with him though there isn't any music, the gazebo empty, the band still asleep, music trapped in...


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