Ocean City, New Jersey

By Jasmine V. Bailey

I drove to meet you the first day of the year
at a B&B fifteen miles east of my childhood
on the White Horse Pike.
For three mornings we had a German pancake
and three cups of coffee 
with the black-haired innkeeper
whose husband coughed in another room,
whose philodendra vined her walls
and ceilings like a cage.

You led me down the beach that first night 
all the way to Longport Bridge
keeping secret what we were after.
Everything seemed a candidate—
the armor of some crab picked clean,
Polaris beneath the moon
like Marilyn Monroe’s mole.
When we got to the bay
I thought we might swim it.
Your face fell realizing
what we’d come to see was gone,
that you would have to tell 
what you’d brought me there to show.

The bioluminescence you’d seen
the night before I arrived
coaxing a glistering shore
out of the dark
was gone with the jellies
or bacteria arrived now in the Atlantic. 
You described it as a lit path, if
a narrow one, like the aisle
of an airplane you pace at night
when every passenger is asleep
because you no longer know
what your country is like
or if your mom will manage
to find her way to Philadelphia
to pick you up, or if there will ever 
be a child to grow so tired 
you have to carry her, sleeping,
all the way home on your chest,
her heavy head just starting to dampen,
her eyelids working against your heart—
and I saw it.

Jasmine V. Bailey is the author of Alexandria and Disappeared (Carnegie Mellon UP), and the chapbook, Sleep and What Precedes It. Her translation of Silvina López Medin’s That Salt on the Tongue to Say Mangrove is forthcoming from Carnegie Mellon. Her writing has been recognized with Michigan Quarterly Review’s Laurence Goldstein Prize and Ruminate Magazine’s VanderMey Nonfiction Prize. 

Originally appeared in New Ohio Review 29.

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