Around the time this was written, I wanted to write something longer than my normal short pieces, hoping I would stretch and stretch until I was writing books.  A broken date - a day at the beach with my friend Cheryl was my attempt at writing this longer piece - a long letter describing the day.  But as I looked at it afterward, it just wanted to be broken into these little pieces...

letters to cheryl, part one
(from marconi beach)


it was good to see you again
though we didn't have much time to talk

you look marvelous
prettier, in fact than ever before
and you know how i enjoy your beauty
(i still use your picture as my bookmark)

sorry that you couldn't make it
to the beach with me
it was a wonderful day
you would have enjoyed it



after breakfast at margo's
at the registry
a pretty woman yelled across the parking lot
"hey, do you want my number?"
as i walked toward the building

i heard but didn't quite understand
"here, take my number", she said
and handed me a ticket
"i don't need it and you won't have to wait too long"

the number was 29
she was around 25
and definitely a 10
inside they were up to 18
25 and 26 got impatient and left
i was on my way again in 15


i almost stayed in newport
at first beach
rather than travel to the cape alone
but there's nowhere in the world like marconi

when i hopped into the car
i noticed the sky
it was wearing
what you would call
powder-blue eye shadow
if you'd just had breakfast
with an extremely beautiful woman

(i tell you often because you don't believe it)



i got to marconi beach around noon
but never went into the water:
someone was kind enough
to mark the water temperature on a chalkboard:
56 degrees fahrenheit (colder than my diet coke)

i usually go
about half a mile down the beach
to where there aren't so many people
so i don't have to listen to their radios and complaining
but i stayed nearer this time
still away from the crowd but closer:
sort of behind them

the beach is wide and long
with a tall sand dune at its back
that grows into a giant cliff further down the beach

i homesteaded a spot in the hot sand
at the bottom of the dune
with most of the people
all crowded down
in front of



there was a bunch of college kids
reminding me
strangely enough
of "the big chill":

all joking around
reminding themselves of adventures
remembering songs, taking pictures:

"suck in your gut, suck in your gut, man"

i think they all had cameras



at some point as you were growing up
you must have played with an older brother or friend

he, being bigger than you
teased you by holding something just out of your reach

in turn, you jumped to grab it
and hit him in the eye or nose or crotch
causing severe pain

i think that every growing child
male or female
experiences this
some way or another

in mine, i ended up with 36 stitches in my right arm

(some people have it tougher than others)

i saw a young boy get his:

a frisbee in the nose
thrown by his little sister

he fell crying in the sand
then lifted his head, noticing me watching

he looked at me like he knew that i knew it was his turn:

i was the world's witness


a girl
that looks a lot like you
came up to me on her way to the parking lot

(you wore the earrings i gave you to breakfast on purpose, didn't you?)

she had a dog on a leash:

a springer spaniel

it sniffed my blanket

we smiled at each other as she left



there was this woman in front of me
with her two sons and a pretty little girl

the girl, perhaps eight
left to go to the restroom
perhaps 200 yards away

she got maybe one-third the way there
and her mother jumped up startled
"she's young and pretty - she'd be a good one to take"
and yelled for her to wait, running to join her

her sons were funny too
they sounded like they hated one another
but they were inseparable
fighting and playing the whole six hours
i was there at the beach
at least every moment i spent awake



later in the afternoon
when i moved closer to the water
i got to view the mother
as she watched them play

it's funny
but i think she was seeing
their father in them:
missing him and loving them
all at the same time

she had this happy sad look that said this to me

maybe it was aids
or a drunken driver
or some stupid war
that took him away



in the middle of all this
i found a romantic young couple
sitting side by side in beach chairs
like they were at a drive-in movie

he was tanned dark brown
trim and muscular

the way his head was bent
made him look much older
as if he'd been there for years

his woman
tall and thin
almost modelish but healthier looking
seemed to match his contour perfectly
no matter how she embraced him

they sat talking quietly
feeding and feeling each other
making one another laugh

they would have devoured one another
if they had been alone
though i doubt anyone else was noticing



in the late afternoon
the dune's shadow
pushed me toward the water

at one point
from a little depression in the beach
i couldn't see the water

i had the big dune behind
and this little one in front

it was like being in the desert

i pictured armored cars
tanks and soldiers
leaping over the dunes

(i'd been reading yehuda amichai
the israeli poet i like
he writes about love
family, God and war

he fought in world war two
and three israeli wars)

it's funny how hate
and death and hardship
can somehow draw life and love
out of some people

like dark colors
draw light out of a painting

you taught me that



as one family was leaving the beach
there was a parade of children
all chasing and tugging at their father

i smiled at him as he went by laughing
enjoying all their attention

a few minutes later
his wife came by
carrying chairs
and a cooler
and blanket

i could see it in her eyes

her husband couldn't see it:
he wasn't looking

i left not too long after that



at the top of the stairs
that climbed the dune
there was a small german family
apparently on some sort of guided-by-dad tour

i stopped to put on my sneakers
and overheard him speaking
to his wife and children

i came so close to telling them
that they were on
one of the best beaches in the world
(wish you could have been there)

love always,





i read in your last letter about harry

please take my advice:

it is ridiculous for a butterfly
to try to return
to when she was a caterpillar

you are a butterfly
find another: a butterfly to be with

don't go back to that caterpillar



as for my prayers:

i will gladly pray for your inner strength along with my own
but promise me that you'll pray for me as well

stop believing that God doesn't hear you

i'm reminded of an experiment
where a pike was placed in a fish tank
and fed a diet of goldfish

after a while a glass barrier was placed
between the pike and the goldfish
the pike couldn't get the goldfish
no matter how hard it tried

it finally stopped trying

then they stopped feeding it and removed the glass barrier

but the pike died of hunger
in the tank with the goldfish
because it believed it couldn't get them

sometimes our actions put things into motion
that make it seem like God isn't answering

but his nature is goodness, love and mercy
answers come so keep trying:
don't let your hopes die like the pike

hope to see you soon
and again,
love always