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Thursday, July 07, 2011


by Helen Tzagoloff
   If democracy is to prevail, public good must prevail over
   private interests. The question is: would the majority of people be
  happier with a public waterfront on the Long Island Sound or not?
    --Enrique Peñalosa, The New York Times Magazine, June 8, 2008
NO TRESPASSING Private Beach to Water’s Edge
--Sign in Destin, FL, The New York Times, December 3, 2009

Olga and Anna, my mother’s friends,
came by train to visit us on Long Island
where we rented a room for two weeks
in the house of a friend of a friend.

Good day for a visit. Our landlord had
gone away on business. My mother and I
made cheese blintzes and roasted a chicken.
Olga and Anna brought smoked herring,
dark pumpernickel, Belgian chocolates.

After lunch Olga and Anna wanted to walk
to the beach, see the ocean. Not to swim,
just walk barefoot on the sand. Nobody
on the beach, except for a man in a booth.
“Are you members?” he asked.
“This is a private beach.” Our landlord
had been driving us to a much larger
noisy, crowded beach with concessions.

“Can the shoreline be private?” I asked.
“Yes, it can be and is.” Nobody is here,”
I pleaded. “Our visitors have not seen
the ocean  since they fled their war-
torn country.” He’ll be fired if he lets us
walk on the sand. (If we jumped over the sand
into the water, we could swim? I wanted to ask.)

I convinced the guard to let us approach water,
not barefoot, but with our shoes on --
he said it would take too long to take them off.
I quickly took a picture of Olga and Anna,
then another with my mother joining them,
the ocean sunlit and foaming behind them.

My mother and I were upset, but Olga and Anna
said they were happy – they had seen the ocean.
As proof, there will be a framed photo on the bureau.

Helen Tzagoloff's poems and prose have been published recently in Barrow Street, Wild Violet, and Stranger at Home Anthology: Interpoezia. Her book of poems Listening to the Thunder is to be published by Oliver Arts and Open Press.