Sand Dollar by Tayler Klein

I. Ocean FloorKlein

Mom and I stand on Bradenton Beach.

The waves ripple over our feet like little hands,

and she tells me about her summers

growing up on the gulf with her Uncle Bebe

who had Daisy Duck tattooed on his calf,

and about his brother-in-law Booker


and how her Aunt Ada searched for sand

in the kitchen with her bare feet while

her Aunt Jenn paced the coastline when the uncles

were late coming home from fishing.

She told me how Aunt Ada and Aunt Jenn

never went into the water, but instead


sat on the porch with mason jars

of iced tea, perspiration beading like rain.

They’d told Mom the unbroken

sand dollar she found was magic

because it came from the dark ocean floor,

a place where no woman could ever walk.


II. Said Uncle Bebe to My Pre-Adolescent Mother:

Let me tell you, Jennifer Anne, about

The Woman of the Bay of Mobile.


She comes up from the ocean

during storms—after the waves

are big enough to tip the jon boats—

walking on water like Jesus Christ himself.


Booker told me his daddy told him

The Woman of the Bay of Mobile

was a dead Spaniard’s pregnant wife.

Booker said she drowned during a shipwreck

before Alabama was a state. Still searching,

now she comes up with the salt wind during storms.


And Jennifer Anne, I wanted to know why

Booker was telling me this about ladies

and ghosts when neither of them have a place

on our boats. He said he thought I should know

whether I wanted them in my bay or not,

they were already here.


III. Casting Nets

In high school, Mom brought Dad to the bay.

She told him how one morning,

on her way to cast the nets with Uncle Bebe

and Uncle Wayne, she found the sand dollar

whole and hidden in the shadows

of the gray sunrise. She left it

in the sea grass growing

at the foot of the dunes by their trailer.


All morning, she’d cast the nets

until her jaw was sore from holding

the gray metal ring between her teeth,

and her uncles praised her deft movements:

just like a man’s.


When the boat was full of fish, they went home

and she found the sand dollar

where she left it, took it back up to the house

and laid it on her still flat chest

while she waited to fall asleep.


This year, she was ready to show Dad

everything she knew about fishing and casting

and foraging on the coast, but this time

the uncles wouldn’t take her. If she was old enough

for a man, that made her a woman.

Women didn’t cast nets.


Then she became my mother,

and at three, I held the sand dollar to my ear,

wanted to know why the warm star wouldn’t sing

to me like the other shells did.

She said on the trip to the beach

holes had been poked like little eyes

at the hands and feet of the star.

She said these holes let the song out.


IV. A Love Story

When my mother tells me the legend of

The Woman of the Bay of Mobile, she says

she doesn’t think the ghost woman searches

for her husband, but her unborn daughter.

Aunt Aida and Aunt Jenn let that slip one morning,

after the uncles had left, like it was some great secret.


And here is the strangeness of it: Mom and I stand

on Bradenton Beach, miles from where she became

a woman that summer with her aunts and uncles,

but we still look at the same ocean. I think,

as she bends over the shallow water and

scoops up shells brought new from the waves,

her voice conversational, the ghost woman

a mere fact, that this too is a love story:

a woman and her belly. What grew

behind the ghost woman’s navel was brewed

by wind and sun, seasoned by white sand and weaved

from her hair, still glossy with salt water.

~Tayler Klein

Tayler Klein, a Montessori school teacher, received her MA in Creative Writing from Pittsburg State University in 2014. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in such publications as Nimrod International Journal, Analecta, Lalitamba, Inscape, Glassworks, and The Midwest Quarterly. Tayler lives in Kansas City, Missouri, with her husband, her dog, and shelves full of books.

Stephen Meats, recently retired from teaching and administration at Pittsburg State University, is the author of a mixed genre collection of poems and stories, Dark Dove Descending and Other Parables (Mammoth Publications, 2013) and a collection of poems, Looking for the Pale Eagle (Woodley Press, 1993; expanded edition, Mammoth Publications, 2014). His poems, stories, and scholarly writings have appeared in numerous print and online publications, including more than two dozen articles on Whitman, Faulkner, and other writers in The Literary Encyclopedia. He has been poetry editor of The Midwest Quarterly since 1985. For his guest editorship, in addition to poems with Kansas associations, he asked contributors to submit work dealing with shore birds and water birds, if moved to do so, in recognition of his and his wife Ann’s recent move to Florida.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s