Field Guides

At night I walk to meet my friend the surf
Alone with me and the heron…
Or the egret…
Not sure

(I should get a field guide to shore birds
More practical than the whale guides, but oh!
How I love whales
Magnificent creatures these beasts
The quiet masters of the earth
Meditative and melodious.

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Notice Me, Little Things

“Notice me,”
Little things say,
“Fit me,
Somewhere.”

“You will fit
Somewhere,”
I whisper,
“Notice me.”

Tiny fragments of sea shells
Once perfect for collectors
Now inhabit the sand
The Sea’s metamorphosis
Perfection for this moment
Not needing to be picked
Not needing to be paraded
Alongside perfect conches
Needing to be seen
Needing to be known
If only for this moment.

Smooth purple rings exposed
Underneath the surface
Show a structure strong,
Endured, now on the surface
Stating their presence.

I know where
You will fit:
Beside me
On the sand

Among friends
Ground down
Not to nothing
But into earth

Hold us up
“You do,”
Whispers
“I do.”

When You Lap My Feet

When you lap my feet
With your soothing song
I want to dive into your wetness
To see how deep inside our souls
I can swim.

I walk towards you step by step
Until your song drowns the noises
Life makes of other people’s living.

I could stand on your sand
A foundation slips away
And never fear a thing
Then watch the gull fly
Over your shimmering skin
Aloft in freedom
Finding inside a sustenance
That brings life
Only your deepest flesh knows.

I am briefly jealous.
Until I hear your song again
Singing for me
Alone in the surf where you end
Always giving me a loving caress
That froths as it fades
And surges up, again and again.

You deposit gifts on my earth
Broken shells and drifting weeds
Only I can see as my treasure.
Here, the smoothed rock…
There, a flattened stone
For me to return to you in skips
Like a man remembering his boyhood
Or a boy still dreaming of what story
He will tell when I return inside you
A love as persistent as the moon
That pulls you rising
Across the quiet of a solitude
That together we understand
As a language spoken
Throughout time for this moment
Awaiting us since the beginning.

Teak Arms

Come and nestle into the nook you chose
Along my gunwale. Rest. I wrap my teak
Arms around you to fend off night. Trace your
Legend between stars, twinkling as they do.

Today, you sacrificed ashes of life
To the Father tormenting your journey
Home. The dust will not heal your wounds or His,
But appeasement will blind him long enough –

His people invite you to the Phaeacian
Feast to hear the substance of your toils.
They lift you up on deck of their swift ship
Sail you home to the Faithful and Longing.

The planks of my own arms, softened by tears:
A bee sting, a disturbed nest on the path
Where you, child, excavated tiny stones
The earliest memory of journey

Are strong tonight – we have no place to be.
Our journey awaits the rose-red fingers
Of Dawn to wrap around your heart again
Teasing tiny sparks from dark, inspiring

Another stop, another mile of miles
To go before you sleep again in this
Nook of my gunwale where I will wrap
You, once again, safe in my soft teak arms.

Ocean Testimony

a boy sits on a broken lobster trap
to stop the shiver in his knees
and accounts for strange, winter companions:

a flock of seagulls,
cracking mussel shells on the jetty

a sentimental couple,
walking barefoot in the shallow surf

a dog and its walker,
tossing a tennis ball for an eager fetch

rescued from kelp beds
wood from broken ships
smoothed, minimizing clues
to piece together adrift memories

he surveys this salt kingdom
that spat out the detritus.

the surf, a siren’s call;
powerful crests and hypnotic cadence
subversive beauty:
when enraged,
devours armadas.
when stilled,
reveals deep harmony.

He watches whitecaps
rise to kiss the moon
then melt away.

This blameless breeze that surrounds
its guests with a pleasant chill,
Weaves dune grasses and lost relics into fences.
In his heart, a voice
– music –
a melody for strange companions
a silent resounding testament to beauty.

“William”

She would walk the beach, her footprints, palimpsests
of journeys week after week in Sunday best –
fine lace and white silk from Victorian boutiques.
A bystander looked askance at this woman in wedding gown
a lonely widow or abandoned bride, clinging to hope.
Yellow shawl defeated by the overcast day
gives up its purpose, and slips off her shoulders.

In the sun-hardened mud, his name carved with parasol,
she feared in marble relief what the sea would soon erase –
sand offers little comfort to a heart fighting grief.
Hands weak and numb, sun’s power swallowed by winter
– she closed her eyes and saw waves batter him
on the rock jetty stealing from lungs, air that gently
whispered her name and washed it and flesh out to sea.

To spite the chill,
she willed an embrace and the last kiss of soft lips.


Image: Waiting for William, John George Brown

Liquid Jade

The ocean runs like liquid jade
Poured between fingers, pure and clean
Empty like I wish to be long enough
To settle between ears that heard too much.

God poured his glass of water here
So that I could see the bottom
A reminder of spots that can be touched
But many more that remain to dive for.

Should I take a break from these poems –
Lyrics to songs I sing alone –
Try to dance to a song everyone knows?
Not to give the night to conformity

Just to break the darkness
With a light from wax,
Words melted with a flame,
A spark that smells familiar, if foul.

Did the child wonder,
That darkness would not scare him?
Did the chid wonder
What darkness would inspire?

Image: Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky
https://www.boredpanda.com/mesmerizing-translucent-waves-19th-century-painting-ivan-konstantinovich-aivazovsky/

stolen from the wind

this quiet voice heard
stolen from the wind
wanting to take it away
to wherever wind goes
when it whispers to the dark

captured in a heart
in the beat of its four chambers,
tender, throbbing
kept safe,
given blood, given life

its echo led to a hole
sand dug by a child
with plastic shovels
in plastic pails
until deep enough to climb in

the surf filled it up
one gentle wave after another
until buried into a whisper
it began to cry out
“hear me… hear me… hear me…”

now heard
this quiet voice
surrounded by others
dug up from the sand
begins to sing

as it always has
to the gulls and dolphins
to the otters and sandpipers
to the crabs and mussels
who have been here all along

Swim Inside My Words

“I want to swim in your words,”
She says and
An ocean opens inside me.
I have to pause,
As one should,
Just before testing the surf
To look with awe at the horizon.

But I will get to those words,
Later,
The depths of which takes time to expose.
Let us linger here in the echo
Of waves powerful enough to move
The rocks that make up our earth.
How do these waters hold us with such force?

“I want to swim in your words,”
She says.
At the waters edge I dig a hole
To make a pool.
My bucket filled with sand
To reclaim land elsewhere
On the island.

Speaking of pools,
Walk with me
On broken granite slabs
To where the tide collects
Life we can name
From depths now exposed
To the sun:

Sea anemone
Starfish
Sea cucumber
Snails
Seaweed
Swim inside my words
Past the horizon.

Photo: Me, San Diego, Ocean Beach