After the bleak season I find spring again. It struggles upright through the sand, squeezes green from the trees. We walk the clattering beach in open air. A meager slope announces the final edge of a continent. How many thousands of miles behind us? Only six feet in front: the seam of a potent ocean. Driftwood stacks at the far reach measure storm surges and rogue currents, but today the bay is tame. Silty cliffs on both sides. Madrona and wild rose grow in tumbles, grasp the land as it slowly erodes, ride glaciers of clay. He skips stones into the sea, lessens the continent by degrees.
–Do you ever wish on them?
Wishing stones: banded and smooth. His make freckles across the skin of the water, two three five, then sunk. The day stretches blue out to the islands.
–Do you ever taste them?
He wets a dime-sized corner. I do the same. It brines my tongue, warm and fetal. Here in my palm: an ocean condensed. The spot gleams green and gold. He releases his tongue-tasted rock to the ground. I ponder the porousness of stone.
Every winter river rocks shatter in place. Vulnerable when saturated, a frost shears them at every seam. They maintain their shapes for a time, bedded in the ruts, shards composed in a careful stack, but sooner comes a careless foot to scatter, a curious hand to shred. Heat is an element but cold is only its lack: plain water and a simple lack cleave stones in their own home.
Taken from the beach, sea stones pale to the no-color of air. A fool’s notion to keep them, they shine for only a time.
–Here’s one for your dark wishes.
His laugh is a wink, a pinch, a punch. The stone is matte black with two pale bands around. It has worn unevenly, so the bands almost join at one end, but spread far from one another where the rock is thinnest. They are fragile seams, the sites of some future rupture. They orbit like I do.
We sit side by side. Seaweed ribbons the tideline. From the north, scraps of white drift in and snag on the far mountains while he claws through the pebbly beach.
–Here’s a rock for you.
Granite. Pumice. Jade green. Pink and scalloped, embossed by lichen, nobbed by barnacles, already paling in the day.
The space between us erodes. Half a shell: a two chambered heart. He lines them down my leg. Ahead of us the day tumbles blue to evening. The beach leaks out its people, circles back to dusk. I think to keep them all, every stone he chose and rowed, but they have dried to gravel and I burden my pocket with only the one. The rocky ground slows my bare steps as he walks fast in his useful shoes. I contemplate dark wishes, sorrowful gifts.
The wishing stone. In a thousand years this rock will wear and narrow, leave the white bands bulging in a persistent ridge. Or the black is denser, and the white will tighten inside like a belt, slowly pinch it in half. Or the rock will heave up from a riverbed some future winter, wet and cold and torn apart. Or it will be at rest on my dresser, between a candle and a coin, another drab object of unchanging want.
Marley Simmons Abril is an MFA candidate at Western Washington University, in Bellingham, WA. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Steel Toe Review, Jeopardy, Femeninete, Menacing Hedge, and others. She is Assistant Managing Editor at Bellingham Review. She likes to build stuff.