We’d practiced the tent on the lawn,
but not in these conditions.
We were stubborn and young,
—old enough to know better, someone old would say—
and by the time we got the tent to steady,
the pegs deep enough in the sandy loam,
we could feel Doria drumming down the beaches
from Delaware, Jersey, then the Island.
and all we could imagine was, a gift.
We stayed up all night for the weather
but were too far to hear,
the sound coming in and out
like some trombone recorded live
from The Royal Roost, in the dark ages.
But this was where we wanted to be,
determined to make it the night,
even see a little sun come morning in its struggle to rise
over the next dune, and what it might mean
if we could find a reason to stay in love.
No sleep. Then, the wind downed a tree
around 3 in the near distance,
which sounded like a shot
and slow dying from a Western we’d once seen.
She looked at me and said she wanted to go,
as if this was something so apparent, so true,
even I must know.
I wanted to stay in the tent.
She’d settle for a cheap motel down Route 6
away from the shore.
I said we’d be safe in the car.
She simmered. I steeped.
The truth was, we could never bring much to a boil.
Instead, we drove a mile, then another,
then too many to turn back,
she in a pique and I a cocoon,
protected from the elements inside and out.
Finally, no use, she pretended to sleep, a mercy,
and I sang a song to myself
about the joys of traveling all night in a storm alone.
Got home in time to see first light over Queens,
a gentler place—or, at least, one we knew well.
I’m certain we didn’t say goodnight.
Why should we? We’d marry soon,
and be happy, just as we had planned.
by Alan Walowitz
Editor’s Note: This narrative poem seems like a straightforward story about the end of a relationship—right up until the last line when another level of tension blows in, scattering the expected ending directly into the weeds.