American Life in Poetry: “Summering in Wildwood, NJ”

By Kwame Dawes

For Kayleb Rae Candrilli, as for many of us, the radical change of scenery – in their case, arriving on the coast facing the great Atlantic – can significantly alter our sense of being. For the poet, their assertion “that the lines always change” brings a certain comfort. Even more significant is the epiphany which ends the poem: “the tide tells me / my body can be metamorphosed / as many times as it needs”. “Summering in Wildwood, NJ” celebrates the fluidity of our changing human bodies by connecting them with the provocative fluidity of nature.

Summer in Wildwood, NJ

in a few days i will be on a beach

so bright that I can see the sun through my fingers,

every thin vein lit

blue like a heron’s paw.

this poem is not so much about a beach

as it is to happen,

blowing stop signs

until the coast says

that the lines always change,

and the tide tells me

my body can transform

as many times as necessary.

Poem copyright 2021 by Kayleb Rae Candrilli, “Summering in Wildwood, NJ” from “Water I Won’t Touch” (Copper Canyon Press, 2021). American Life in Poetry is made possible by the Poetry Foundation and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We do not accept unsolicited submissions.

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