Near Marrano Beach

Masses of arundo flagger,
rubbing their dry hands
together as the wind shuffles
between them. The river
bottom smells like jamaica
and sage, wet dog and reticence.
Below the grey painted flood-
gates of Whittier Narrows
Dam, a mother beats her hands
against a blue shirt tentacled
to a rock. The counter weights
of the dam extend above her—
locked arms holding a rolling
pin. Three children play nearby
in the river’s braided streams.
Strips of water shimmer
like unwound cassette tape
ribboned in the dirt.
She slaps the shirt and rinses,
slaps and rinses. The kids grab golf balls
driven beyond the green, beyond
the 200-yard mark, and hurdle
them into standing pools, lodging
them in mud like dimpled
darts—white eyes swallowed
in a brown face. The limp bodies
of bicycle inner tubes vine
around their arms—improvised
flotation rings like slick black
snakes. Willows spread their fingers
in the water, forming mangled
lattice beneath the silt.
All low hung branches
are leafless. The kids snap them off
and whip at each other,
sword-fighting and laughing. 
A careless splash pelts
the drying blue shirt, dotting
it with circles, holes
punched into the soft flesh
of the fabric while around
it, huddled like shivering
bodies, the dark, lank
masses of arundo flagger.

Shane Eaves received his MFA in poetry from California State University Long Beach, where he served as the poetry editor for Riprap. He is a two-time recipient of the William T. Shadden Memorial Award for his poetry.