Laura Hershey: Writer, Poet, Activist, Consultant Rotating Header Image


“Remembering Siesta Key”: A Poem of the Gulf

Remembering Siesta Key

Copyright 2010 by Laura Hershey

Ten days each spring, we woke
to the smell of salt water, seaweed,

eggs my Dad fried in butter,
and fresh orange pulped by Nana.

Before ten a.m. we wore the scent
of sun tan lotion, and tumbled out the door

where the Gulf welcomed us with waves
tendering gifts: conch shells, sand dollars,

tiny clams which opened into pink hearts
or angels’ wings spread for flight.

On folding chairs and big beach towels
we ate peanuts, cheese sandwiches, more oranges.

We did homework — price of missing
three days’ school — halfheartedly,

equations and penciled solutions blurring
amid glare on white pages.

All day, from low to high tide, and back, we slid between
land and sea, let the surf pound and pull at us,

let the sun dizzy us, built castles
of shovel-packed sand walls and drizzled spires

with moats Dad dug deep enough
for my dangling legs.

Can I now, forty years later, grieve
that same seawater? How many times since then

has it evaporated, and fallen? How many hundreds
of generations of mollusks and minnows

have lived and died naturally between that beach
and the sandbar we rafted to at low tide?

In no sense are they mine to mourn —
but neither can I claim innocence.

The flights I board, my craving for cool air,
all my habits of comfort and consumption

learned on family vacations, loved
for a lifetime, joined to billions of others’ hungers,

led to drilling in that Gulf, a hole in its heart,
to take what lay within.

Now, I watch remote live feeds
of unstoppable hemorrhage, technology

helpless to reverse its own mistakes,
dark plumes choking Gulf currents,

and I grieve for fishing families, for endangered pelicans
and bluefin, for eleven dead workingmen.

But my soul aches for what I have not seen
for many years, and what might be lost:

long days on the beach, solving simple problems,
dreading only the end of spring break, until next year.