Young children, ages 8-11, were swimming out into the bay, disappearing under the water, and swimming back to the beach where they displayed their tiny trophies: pieces of small, colorful coral. It was a beginning-of-the-summer tradition, one they looked forward to for months, and the prizes (generous gift certificates) were almost as exciting as the strange chunks in the hands of the young competitors. Judge Baker stood at the shoreline, more lifeguard than judge. Parents drank mimosas as shellfish baked, shallow in the sand among hot stones. And just as it seemed some gold things might stay, the bathing suits of the children started to steam and burn their skin. Kids shucked off bathing suits on the beach and in the water. Some little ones wailed, naked on the wet sand, waiting for their parents to find them. Bathing suits burst into flame in little piles all the way down the beach. While most of the children ran to their parents, some just ran in circles or in the other direction, off away.
ERIC BURGER’S poems have appeared in Black Warrior Review, Denver Quarterly, Quarterly West, Puerto del Sol, Green Mountains Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, CutBank and Gulf Coast, among others. He was a Jay C. and Ruth Halls Poetry Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing and is a recipient of a grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts. He teaches at the University of Colorado and lives in Boulder with his wife Katherine and daughter June.