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.

Sea Cream

Creamy coral eyes
Salty hypnotize
Filmy mermaid’s delight
Flying fish, fishy flight
Giant sponge
Where you lunge
On the seabed at night
Where the manta ray flaps
And the fish-harlot slaps
Her oily buttocks to say…

  We got red roe
We got jelly
Come rub some on my belly
Smoke some seaweed
What do you need?
Put this hook in your mouth

Report from Cutler, Maine, October 1997

Salt shore,
where the seaweed grows,
and the tide kneads life
                         slow.

Evening gulls’
squawking fades and falters,
and the gulping crows
        revise their last oration.

Little mussels nestle
into curves of soft
green mud,
borrowing space
        from        some        stones.

And a lobster laughs
and a cormorant
follows his fish
                          alone.

***

City, scrape, truck.
Sick surplus.
Rush return to restless wait.
Back again in nexus.

This desert, flesh
rehearsing sermons,
pockmarked shield of mirrors.

Inside, the roaring
tide is pounding, pulling,
pounding at the future.
Unless…
Unless…
Remember something
calming, mussels,
                         still.

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