In the forties my grandmother worshipped
sand as pale as Irish skin, the sirens
of casinos on summer afternoons.
One night, walking home from a dance,
a corsage red as a heart on her wrist,
she heard the footsteps of a man behind her,
quick and slow, quick and slow.
These were the months of the boardwalk murders,
the curfews and pocketknives slipped into stockings,
but in the end she was saved by a gate—a latch
she knew and he did not—and a sprint to the front door,
while a neighbor’s lights came on, yellow
as a cat’s eyes in the dark.
In the fifties she married a man who drank
away the scalded bodies of Nagasaki, and
how many nights did she wake then to the rattle
of a latch in the yard, the footsteps
of a man at the edge of her bed,
so her daughter could have a daughter who
loved the ocean too but saw
the wreckage of a different war.