by Elizabeth Spires 

Along Ocean Highway, apartments rise up
to ten and twenty stories,
white, hallucinatory, defying the shifting sand,
the storm moving in off the Atlantic
that drives the rain, needlelike,
across the windshield so that we can’t see,
so that we stop in Ocean City to wait the storm out
at the Dutch, the only bar on the boardwalk
open this time of year, all the concessions
boarded up, weather-beaten, closed against the season…

Long, narrow, and dark,
the Dutch, with its shifting clientele—
from summer weekend pickups to Ocean City regulars—
allows for strangers. We order Irish coffee,
then two more, and use our change to play an arcade game.
Aliens, half an inch high, in green armor,
drop out of a glowing sky and quickly multiply.
Our backs to the storm, we play out
old anxieties, losing each game to time and starting over:
we must save what’s being threatened and not ask why.

SOURCE: “Ocean City: Early March” appears in Elizabeth Spires’s collection Swan’s Island (Carnegie Mellon, 1997), available at Read the poem in its entirety at

IMAGE: Ocean City, Maryland, postcard by Curt Teich & Co.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A critically acclaimed poet and children’s book author, Elizabeth Spires lives and works in Baltimore, Maryland. Spires won a 1996 Whiting Award for her volume Worldling. Her children’s books include With One White Wing and Riddle Road: Puzzles in Poems and Pictures, and The Mouse of Amherst.