Tonight all San Pedro’s on the beach.
Bus drivers, teachers, kids, fishing
boat captains. Under this full moon’s
grin, from Baja to Santa Barbara, they are due
to rise at midnight, ghosts from the sand.
Families toast marshmallows over fires
as we wait for a silver flash that says tiny fish
have materialized. So they say, but you know
grown-ups. Sheila says it’s like snark-hunting,
a joke, but I think Jerry’s right: grunion are poison.
Tonight, some of us will die.
Parents talk and drink. We squeal at the touch
of salt water on scabbed knees, squish around
in sluggish surf. Bored, the adults talk of leaving,
but then a shout rises down the beach.
Breathing holes appear between our toes.
Grunion! the call up and down the coast. We run,
footprints stitching sand and scoop up squirming sickles
that racket in our buckets. We dance, looting the sea.
Phosphorescent flickers mean the Red Tide is coming,
and weeks of no swimming. But for now it’s all fireworks,
sea-spewed treasure for the taking.
We knew it! How easy life would be,
that they were wrong. And we jump to get rich quick.
From Femme Au Chapeau (David Robert Books, 2005)
Copyright by Rachel Dacus.
Used with the author’s permission.