Beach Burial

James Robinson

James Robinson

Beach Burial was selected for MSUL’s themed call for work about Water, in coordination with the MSU Broad Art Museum’s fall 2023 exhibition, Flint is Family in Three Acts, featuring the photography of Latoya Ruby Frazier.

They are burying a seven-year-old boy
In a shallow grave in the gray sand
Just above flattened heaps of kelp
And the white foam of afternoon waves
That lap onto shore at regular intervals
On a beach of the blue-green Gulf 
Beneath the soaring wings of pelicans
And flutter of seagulls.
There appears to be a sister about nine,
A pair of twin brothers about five, 
And a baby sister no more than three.
They work diligently packing sand
Into a cement paste with buckets of ocean
Brought by the twins' brigade as they run 
Like Aztec messengers between the grave
And white foam of broken waves 
Where they dip buckets and run to pour 
The immortal mixture of water and salt
Over palm-packed sand and protruding head
Under the supervision of an elder brother
Who must be about twelve or thirteen.
A young woman in a black satin bikini,
Her waist and buttocks wrapped
With a sheer scarf-like skirt,
Leaves her table beneath its striped umbrella
With her platter of nuts and chopped mango
Half-eaten, her glass of shrimp cocktail empty,
And knells beside the buried,
Pats his cheek with the palm of her hand
As he closes his eyes to absorb
The lasting sensation of the moment,
Proving trust in siblings and faith in family.
She uncovers hands on his stomach in a posture
Like Chac Mool, raises him, brushes away sand 
Caked on his skin, leads him knee-deep
Into the ocean, and pours handfuls of saltwater
Over his chest, back, shoulders and head
Until his entire body glistens gold.

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