Paul Willis

Arroyo Burro Beach, ca. 1900

The only shade on the sand 
moves beneath a horse and buggy, 
heading east.  The one man holding the reins
contributes the shadow of his head
just under the front left wheel.

The shadows of the wheels themselves
are absurdly small, spoked and flattened
in miniature.  No one else travels the beach 
for miles ahead.  The chalky bluffs 
curving into the distance bear nothing at all

but a pair of eucalyptus trees and coastal sage—
no homes with million-dollar views, 
no parks, no schools, no grocery stores.
Just a single man on a buggy, smartly 
attired in a black vest and long white sleeves,

bareheaded in the sun, holding the reins loosely
while his one horse navigates 
the turn-of-the-century tideline 
through bits and strands of darkened kelp, 
next to a calm and capacious sea.

After the Edson Smith Photo Collection Arroyo Burro Beach.

Paul Willis has published six collections of poetry, the most recent of which is Little Rhymes for Lowly Plants (White Violet Press). His latest book is a YA Elizabethan time-travel novel, All in a Garden Green (Slant). He is a professor of English at Westmont College and a former poet laureate of Santa Barbara. Also by this poet “Children Reading Books, ca. 1930