Matthew Wallenstein: “Washington”

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Washington

Low 
tide. Across the bay 
the mountains are blue in moving fog. 
Animal 
corpse
in the brown grass. 
Headless and skinned.
About the size of a dog. Max says 
he thinks it is a deer that went 
In the ocean and drowned, 
washed up on shore. I nod, 
I don’t smile and I don’t mention its flippers.
Around a bend 
on the beach we find another—
skinned, headless. 
Its ribs grey, yellow, bending 
from its pile of body. It smells 
like seawater and rot. 
The flippers are splaying out 
more obviously this time, 
he sees them. 
“Oh,” he says, “it’s a seal, they are seals.”
I don’t let him forget 
that he thought it was a deer 
that went swimming.

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About the Author: Matthew Wallenstein is a writer and tattooer. He lives in the Rust Belt. Much of his work concerns growing up in poor rural New Hampshire, the deportation of his wife, and mental illness, though it also captures every day life.

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Image Credit: Carol M. Highsmith, “A distant shoreline view in a Washington State town fittingly called Long Beach, since it advertises its 28-mile-long Pacific Ocean strand as “the world’s longest beach.” (2018) The Library of Congress

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