Denise Segal Umans, “My Father’s Path”

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My Father’s Path

We walk the lengthy beach in Gordon’s Bay
dwelling on our reasons to be wandering
here, this time of year, in winter’s shawl
along the Indian Ocean shore.

The mountains loom behind us
keeping watch as when my father
walked these paths in days long gone. I trace
his footsteps on the strand, his carefree bike

descending to the vale. We stop to study
shells of varied hues, deftly carving patterns
as they move in sand that stretches softly,
whitely on, their history scrawled in slow,

illegible song. I kneel to peer, to unravel
the contoured fable of one life, illumined
by its whorls. The periwinkle scurries
to a hole in weakened, winter sun.

Now, as I pass handpicked cowries
and cones resting in a basket in the hall,
I see my father hiking in the hills,
collecting shells left stranded

by the spray. I catch a whiff
of salty, fishy scent, crisp air—
a trace of childhood
washed away.


Denise Segal Umans grew up in South Africa and now lives in the Boston area. As a speech-language therapist and linguist, she has worked for over 30 years in language and literacy development and as a teacher of English as a second language. She has published and co-published articles in professional journals as well as general-interest magazines. Her poetry has been published in Clementine Poetry Journal, Poetry Quarterly, and The Avocet: a Journal of Nature Poetry.


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