Marine Layer by Ariel Kusby

It did not thin, even when tar-filled
cracks yielded to pressure
of a big toe, prehistoric
play dough. Gardenias
unfurled, sabots balanced, white
checkmarks along the blue edge.

Not a bruise on compact
sand, but grits and flecks clung
to the ankle, the arch. Tide
pools exposed, revealing
barnacles, beauty marks, dark green
fuzz. Black mussels
salivated, squirting anemones
tickled, sea cucumber eggs examined
by squatting little girls, cold water spotting
back pockets of shorts. Then crab
carcasses discovered in dim
crevices, fractured sand dollars, buds
of Styrofoam like innocuous
pearls sunbathing before re-entering
dark wombs. Starfish legs were signs
of hope, but steps were misjudged,

a submerged pipe, a bloody cut, fading
quickly into bay water like invisible
ink, diluted by algal currents and plankton
parades. Sanguine trail
along the sidewalk, fleshy flap like a yawning
mouth filled with sand, a swallowing
clam, stinging with salt.

Ariel Kusby studied creative writing and fine art at UCLA. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Bone Bouquet, Luna Luna Magazine, Umbrella Factory, Spires, Chaparral, The Riveter Review, Eunoia Review, Westwind, and other journals.

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