An excerpt from

The Green Alembic
by Louise Fabiani

Red Tide for J.M.M.

You kept so many things from me.
Not all of them secrets.

When we ran into each other again,
you in your final summer in Montreal,
the baby I had not seen for years
was nearly four.
Little Sarah ran to show me things
while you and I tried to speak.
I watched her sturdy tanned legs hurry away
as I telescoped my long regret
into that awkward morning.

She brought me clam shells,
unhinged in death, stomach-bodied occupants long-gone.
"Where did they go?" she in quired.
"They died", I said, feeling the weight of your vigilance
upon me as I navigated our encounter.
"How did they die?" Sarah pressed on.
And I replied, "Oh, maybe they died of old age."

Sometimes life is a burden,
I thought, but never to one so well loved, halfway
through her fourth year of wonder,
full of lightning and jam pudding.
A clam sighs its last and melts
into unforgiving sea water.
A precocious child runs on, protected
by you and her father,
as her estranged auntie marks the passing months.

"Could it be red tide?"
She startled me. You explained
a seaside visit, an accidental remark
firmly registered in her busy mind.

She already knew of poison
ineluctably absorbed.