Digging for crabs at the beach

“Watch,” he said, and he was digging,
with a plastic cup,
timing the scoops just right,
so in the moment before a wave,
when the sand was still wet from the last one,
he was digging.

It was the standard scene: the tide,
the gulls and salt.
How long did Man stand at this frontier,
having reached the absolute limit,
until the first ships tore through the screen,
and the beach became a beginning?
But I was just a boy, playing here for a day.

“Look!” he said, and in the cup,
I saw a scoop of sand, and some water
he’d collected. And — there —
a small crustacean, scrambling for an exit.
“They live inside the sand.”

He repeated this routine and I watched,
two boys, crouched at the edge of the sea.
But for one plastic cup, we could have been
a million boys, digging on beaches
before history, lost in the understanding
that everything — everything is alive.

Fire Island, July 1997

I left myself on the beach,
with towels and shoes, a book, lemonade
it is all behind me, back on the beach
here I am only light,
or sand, lightly salted,
and water
I am waving, and each wave
only kind of repeats

this strange salt pungence in my nostrils
too long dulled by cab coughs
and uncurbed dogs
reminds me of my breathing
and it is waving
with a cresting anticipation
of intake
and a booming exhalation

some waves find relief
on the land
and it strikes me
that the place of waves
is a place of shifting
promises between
the kingdoms of land and sea
and like me
traces the shiver
of extremes for awhile

but, lemonade,
the scent of coconut on a magazine