They littered the beach in thousands—
silver fingerlings half-mummified

by wind and sand.  Skin peeled like tinsel 
from some, revealing shriveled flesh

on pin-bone frames; others floated in lake-weed nets, 
washing up in windrows.  Their carrion call

drew no gull or fly; we were the only living things 
we knew, swimming in a soup of bones

as our parents lay on the beach like driftwood 
beneath the bright stink of the sun.

David Oestreich lives in Northwest Ohio with his wife and three children. His work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Minnetonka Review, Ruminate, Hobble Creek Review, and Tar River Poetry.

This poem recalls a trip my family took (during my childhood) to Michigan's upper peninsula.  In the mid-1970s Lake Michigan experienced an alewife die-off of startling proportions, and the beach scene I describe is without exaggeration.  I remember kicking aside the scattered, dead fish in order to have a clean area to lay my towel.  Many years later, the macabre surreality of that environmental dysfunction struck me as an appropriate means of describing relational distance. 



Copyright 2009