Charles Turner


I’d watched the waves unceasing come and go,

forever disquiet, always in motion, rushing

and rippling, whispering, roaring—while

the shoreline underfoot was silent, smooth and still—

until one day I was walking on my favorite beach

and someone asked me where the boardwalk was.

I stopped, I started to point, I tried to remember

the name of the storm, the year of the flood, where

the lighthouse stood, why the dunes were gone.

And suddenly I was no longer sure where I was

(and the map on my phone was washed out in the sun),

so near to panic I said, Try asking the lifeguard.

But there was no lifeguard, no umbrella, no stand,

if there ever was, if this was my favorite beach, if this

is how things silent, smooth and still, can change—

when you watch the waves and not the shoreline.

CHARLES TURNER was born on Long Island in Flushing Queens, attended Queens College of the City University of New York, later taught there for eleven years in the Communication Arts Dept. before moving to Harrisonburg Va. and the School of Media Arts & Design at James Madison University, where he taught courses in film studies and narrative media until his retirement in 2010. The imagery of the shoreline in the poems below echo the imprint of his many summers spent on the beaches near Mattituck and Hampton Bays.