Melissa Stein

Baker Beach

Close your eyes on that startled
vision: fishing line strung taut
by the waves’ tall pressure: cold sugar
of a fish’s mouth clamping the bait’s steel
surprise. Hold fast against the tide, its spray               
finer than pleasure against your sun-
ruddy face. Understand there’s nowhere
to go. I mean you have nowhere
you must go. The men look
for men, the women seek
women and the seagulls approve
with the rough spanish of their wings
and throats. What we trust is the sound
of the sea, its chill shock, our faith
in its change. Rolling together and under
and up and apart and on to the next
body. This is the pacific.

Blue Trio


Birdsong hammers at the day’s thin metal.
If I had a tuning fork I’d spell out for you
their precise deto- and concatenations            
expanding the air then receding—
The birds own this day, this shimmer
of leaf and frond. We’re in the woods, tucked
between four walls. Trees give way
to more trees, their density
is astonishing, the space
between any two trees inhabited
by two trees—  oh hell, there are a lot                        
of trees. There’s a clearing
around the walls, ferns and slender
oaks beaten back for light, sky,                                                          
rather, something for the eyes
to breathe in—  It is a marvelous
day, just the right bleed of cotton                               
and blue—  What I’m really saying
is you’re leaving, I don’t want you to—



tug at the fabric of trees and uncover
ocean: all that lit-up green, green doused
in shadow gives way to the more
expansive blue—  I don’t know
what it is about the coast’s      
vocabulary that draws me.      
I need to feel that blue scratch
at my heart and lungs, cool slate
shadows on sand, the innumerable
foldings of water—  blue-white
birds careening in an air
almost blue—  stepping                                                                                  
the tightrope between wet
and chill. I am intimate
with language, that word
a rich cream, browning at the edges
like crème brûlée—  but
I was describing the Atlantic
coast, where sunset over land
brings on its blues—



more than sea, than shadow,
air—  we were suffused in blue,
English Harbor, Serene Blue, Storm
Approach, Kingfisher, Collegiate Blue,
Milano, Blue-as-Montana blue—
the whole range of blues racked up
our losses in shades more feeling
than color. You’d bought me
a dollar ring—  “U” in a heart
for “Want You,” cheap metal—
and that too was washed in blue-
grey, like the beach rinsed
by the flat remains of waves
heading back to what fed them.
Try as we might, we couldn’t see the horizon
as a straight line. Our eyes believed
too much the flick and toss
of chop and gully, the surface’s beaten
steel. Hollows under your eyes,
the dent beneath your nose held a deep grey
light—  we skipped past a blue dog in love
with, yes, a blue ball, his leaping after it
and retrieval—

Melissa Stein

Melissa Stein is the author of the poetry collection Rough Honey, winner of the APR/Honickman First Book Prize. Her poems have appeared in Southern Review, Harvard Review, Best New Poets 2009, New England Review, North American Review, and many other journals and anthologies. She has received fellowships from Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, and others. She is a freelance editor and writer in San Francisco.