Puerto Escondido, Mexico
After breakfast, there is nothing to do
on the gritty streets where tourist
shops swell with halters, t-shirts, heat.
We walk the beach with its black streaks,
and blowfish and crab lie strewn
still damp, wide-eyed, bloated on sand.
It’s a surfer’s dream: waves chomping
thrashing so hard I might lose
my suit in them. We pay for two plastic chairs
for the day, just today. Nothing to do
but watch the Dutch girl sunburn
and see surfers belly onto water
paddling toward horizon,
where there must be something for us
to do besides eat and wait and sleep
in a town of tequila specials
every off-season night. I find
a fat cockroach on the green tile
of the bathroom wall, and it skitters
from the light, from my shoe,
afraid of what I might do.
What Mickey wants
You’re too young to wear a dress like that,
she tells me. She looks at me above
her lowered glasses.
Mickey doesn’t think so. He’s the one
who told me, Try it on.
You’d look hot in that,
he said, pointing to it
on the silver rack.
I’d yanked it
off the hanger, slid it onto my
pencil of a body and stared at the dodgy
dressing room mirror.
You still in there? she asks me.
Can he come back here
with me? I ask her.
Certainly not, she says. Instead,
she pulls aside the curtain and peers at me.
Oh, she says, Hm, is there another we
might like? You’re too young
for that one.
I’m older than I look, I lie, Can I step out there
so he can see it?
Is that man your boyfriend?
(She points with a long and crooked finger.)
Sort of, I say.
She frowns. Go on then, she says,
waving me out.
Mickey is smoking, blowing rings
outside the shop’s front door.
They float away into grey
I motion him inside,
and he crushes out his thin cigarette
with his dirty black boot.
When he pushes open the door,
the cold shoulders in.
Yep, just as I figured, he says,
Hot, real hot.
Really? I say.
But I’m glancing her way.
She stands, arms crossed,
lost in thought, looking out the window.
Hair piled high and pinned on top
of her head, like it might topple
One day you’ll be too old to be wearing
shit like that, he says, his eyes shifting
he says, Get it
while you can still
pull it off.
The day after getting back the medical test results
If the one you love is curled up next to you
when you wake up, and you can feel each breath;
If you can hear the rumble of the train in the distance
and see the closet at the far end of the room, heavy
with sneakers and sweatshirts, and that scarf
your mother knitted for you that you do not wear
but cannot bear to give up because her hands
spent those hours on you;
If you can rise from your bed and walk on your own
to the bathroom, which you do a time or two each night,
and are doing now, in morning,
reaching for your husband’s white terrycloth robe
because it’s softer than your own;
If your dog has not piddled in the house overnight,
has held it in until you click open the door
and she flies out and toward cut grass, and if she
barrels toward you, afterward, as she always does,
a signal that you are someone’s safety and sense of home;
If the sun falls into your front window
and the day promises to be long;
If you can taste the hazelnut in the coffee
and smell the mint plants as you water them,
the ones you put in the ground
yesterday in the late afternoon light;
If you know one person who loves you
for who you are—not the person you might be
but who you’ve become already—
and better yet, if you know more than one: the mother
who knitted you a scarf, the father who helps you
believe in a fair ever-after; the sister who tries to give
you what you want; the husband who holds you
when you worry over the letter
they want you
they need to know more.
Then it’s more than enough to be grateful,
to focus on the sun and the spouse and the dog and the mint
and the grass and the gifts—all those gifts—
and the beginnings of the day,
not the ends. All those beginnings
beg you to believe—
they are enough,
and so you do.
Shuly Cawood is a writer and editor who is currently pursuing an MFA in creative writing at Queens University. Her writing has been or will soon be published in Mud Season Review, Naugatuck River Review, Label Me Latina/o, Rathalla Review, Full Grown People, Fiction Southeast, Under the Sun, The Louisville Review, Ray’s Road Review, and Two Cities Review.
Listen to Shuly Cawood read “The day after getting back the medical test results”