Christine Swint

Folly Beach

Wet sand near the breakers reflects
clouds, pale sky. I should be in heaven,
but I’m not. I want someone to crack
my heart open, make it as wide
as the beach, as regular in rhythm as the waves.

I think of the Buddhist monk called Gutei Isshi,
One Finger, who answered questions
about the Dharma by raising one finger,
a silent signal I imagine like the icons
of St. John the Baptist gesturing toward God.
Gutei Isshi once cut off a student’s finger
to teach the boy a lesson. As the boy ran,
clutching his fallen finger, One Finger
called to him. When the boy turned his head,
One Finger pointed toward the sky.
They say he stopped the boy’s mind.  

If Gutei Isshi strolled beside me,
his saffron robes trailing in the surf,
he’d reach his pointer finger
under my sternum, strum the aorta,
pluck the ventricle, and then,
in a curl of a digit, he’d dig out my heart
and fling it into the bottle-green waves.

What I want in place of a heart: a chest cavity
as wide as the space between stars.

Pelicans skim the water for fish, gulls call,
a toddler runs down shore from her mother,
jellyfish spill on the wet sand, breezes carry the scent of sea muck.
In the heaven I desire, my skin dissolves in the salt air
and the sun steams my skeleton to a mist.

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