- Grass Island, and; Brighton Beach
December, it's cold, but the visitorskeep their spirits, looking for a souvenirlike pilgrims searching for a new life,though it's just key chains,magnets, hats.
In food stalls, shrimps shed greyfor gold, a transformationthat also shrinks them.Cuttlefish lose their antennas,crabs get to keep their claws,strung up like someonewith too many doctrines.
In a restaurant, city workers on holidayconverse about workplaces,the injustice they suffer,the revenge they would like to take.Hard to tell if they've just arrivedor are waiting for the next ferry.The maître d', having heard it all, brings outthe dishes, serenely as a sextonwho's just rung the day's last bells.
But we know the island is no cathedral,there are no flying buttressesor a soaring choir stunning usto believe, if for an instant, we arethe rightful heirs, our prayers true. [End Page 101]
All that remain arethe salt in the air,lulling waves,and a fisherman in a stained shirt,counting up what the year is worth.
Gulls loiter above, a few waddleon the sand looking for food.
But the summer crowds,with their tanning oilsand sandcastles, are gone.
The air is at last free of stale beer,airwaves no longer rockedby music from box radios.
Even the sea returns to a solemn blueas if poised to receive kings and pilgrims.
At Café Tatyana, Russian retireesare having lunch—borscht and grilled fish.They eat without hurry, the memoryof breadlines at a safe distance.
Sometimes a man looks upas if perturbed. He glances towardthe horizon, past a strip of cloud-lit land,past New Jersey, the Atlantic,the Bosphorus, the Black Sea
where his youth is,where the sea is gold at dawnas he leaps into the waves and swims. [End Page 102]
Pui Ying Wong was born in Hong Kong. She is the author of the full-length book of poetry Yellow Plum Season (New York Quarterly Books) and the chapbooks Mementos (Finishing Line P) and Sonnet for a New Country (Pudding House P). Her poems have appeared in Blood Lotus Journal, The Brooklyner, Gargoyle, New York Quarterly, and Valparaiso Poetry Review, among others. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, the poet Tim Suermondt.