At first it resembles an eating contest,
H Northrup, PhD
each devouring another;
oyster drill sucking its prey,
thirsty ticks engorged with doe and fawn,
men with the catch of the day,
and sea swallowing whalers
remembered here in stone.
Waves, relentless friction, grind
old rocks to sand
and would do the same for me.
Immolating sun swelters and churns.
How is it I find
in all this frenzy
here at the end of land
such rhythmic, comforting repose?
Consider how far this wave
has dragged its gown
to curtsy here before the Hither Hills.
Flaming sun to grill
syncopating surf to chill
an empty hide -
salt sweat to salty sea
is what I'm finding here.
As soon as we are busy,
the cadence of the moment breaks away.
Not knowing this, or forgetting,
lifeguard blows his whistle,
mother shouts at Christopher,
and a dune buggy growls
down the beach,
restoring place and time.
I they distract me,
I have lost the mystic rhythm;
annoyed by distraction
I have lost again.
Refinding follows this reminding;
they also beam and wave,
who in their different forms,
engage the pulsing harmony.
Pink of morning, pillow winds.
Here the old Atlantic
snuggles with the sound,
the bashful, silent sound.
All of planet earth beneath
agrees to hold me up.
Two breezes waltz
upon the Walking Dunes.
ALONG THE SHORE
One foot touches crystals of sand.
The other foot kicks off into space.
Thoughts of flying spiral her.
Her heart, that small fisted muscle,
Her throat burns red-blood wine.
Running her distance from nowhere
along the mantle of sandy dunes,
birds tease her from a dusty day,
chanting taunting songs.
The runner slows,
searching her traveled path
to the water where the lighthouse stands.
Circling above, diving birds mock.
Their fading songs drift to silence.
|AGAINST THE CURRENT
He told me he once lived
beside a pond that one winter
froze a mottled trout just beneath its surface.
He watched it season long
as he skated the skin of the pond,
or dragged wood across it
in a small sled.
It was ten feet from his small wharf,
where his rowboat lay,
capsized and grounded
beneath a blue tarp,
encrusted with snow.
But one day,
during spring thaw,
while sitting at the edge of the wharf
and contemplating the drift of his life,
he saw the fish snap free
and plunge into the dark depths of the pond.
That was the reason, he said,
he pulled the plug on a wife
who had been sunk in a coma
for the last two years.
It's usually pigeons that gather
at the feet to lift and drop the bread
one of us couldn't hold on to.
But today, it's the crows dipping their short black beaks
into the body of a dead sparrow.
"Shame on them," my father says, "picking at their
My father will die ten years from this park bench.
When I kneel before his body at the Catholic mass,
I will gather my fingers together and look like I am praying.
The sparrow's body leaves a brown stain on the sidewalk
when the crows finally drag him to the grass.
Ten years from this park bench, my brothers and all the men
will carry my father's body to be buried.
I will walk behind them.
I will not even be a crow at my own father's funeral.
I will wish I could not remember praying at all.
|THE DOCK AT CEDAR
we watch sun reflect
off briny backs of silver shiners
they sense the electromagnetic
fields of our bodies
below the minnow careen away
in schools guided by unseen waves
they move in one direction then the other
with group mind efforts
they swim in perfect unison
while above on the dock
two people negatively charged
pace in different directions
fighting to find their way back
into each others' lives
determined not to get pulled under
by the outgoing tides of their marriage
| THE EGRET
I saw an egret walking in a sludgy pond,
stalking fish. Before each step he lifted
a thready foot and paused, like a prim bride.
He let me watch, and when he turned to look at me,
his head disappeared for a jarring moment,
like minnows swooping into slender oblivion.
From time to time, he plunged for prey, then
curved and shook and stretched his slivery neck,
I thought him a good omen, a sleek white question-mark.
Who thought him up, and with what motives?
Joy and hilarity perhaps, and a yen
for preposterous beauty and grace.
TURTLE, AFTER LAYING HER EGGS
Ah, there's the moon, its light a friend
to sand and surf, my world;
it pulls me toward it,
to the place land seems to end
but where, past bubbly froth,
it lives beneath the water, leading
on and on - to feeding places, rests,
whatever creature passes as it goes.
The mood upon the beach is peace
and why I'm leaving it
I'm no longer in the throes
of that compulsion which propelled me
from the fullness of my bath
and onto sand so far from shore
where frenzied energy within me
drove my back legs deep, and deeper yet,
where during rest I felt a pressure
and discomfort which I let go of
with difficulty and relief: a jet
of streaming impulses familiar
somehow, dimly, leaving something which -
unwelcome and yet precious - I would not
leave you for gulls to find, but covered deep.
The chill I felt when crawling out to land
is gone; the welcome warmth of sun on sand
now doesn't satisfy, so warm from work
I am. To bathe, to be rocked gently,
whispered to, to sense the moon
beneath the surface, and to have a bit
of kelp, of plankton, maybe crayfish -
these are now my only thoughts, my wish.
AND CHAIN STORES
I paddle an inlet in
on the right, a tan
sandbar, spartina grass swaying,
a bulkhead, a house
on the water whose
davits now broken
once lowered small boats.
On the left, the back of the bank
whose names changed in contested
takeovers. Up the hill where
a hardware and shoe store,
a market, served locals were run out
with high rents only the chains
could pay. But here in the wetlands
egrets fish, gulls circle slowly.
Three swans' brilliant
white plumage steam by.