seeking shells, I very nearly didn’t see the pellet, just a baby’s fist, a clutch of life’s leftovers


seeking shells, I very nearly didn’t see the pellet, just a baby’s fist, a clutch of life’s leftovers

almost unnoticed
bundle of fishbones and scales
bound without order
or sense of what they had been
living          before snatched from wave

lying carelessly
dry as the sand bones and scales
they had given form
to the slippery fish       but now
unneeded by life    transformed

once elegant      sleek
fluid as the formless waves
until     suddenly
snatched by one yet more fluid
despite her taloned angles

can it be returned
what the osprey quick-striking
stole from the wavecrest
could separated bones scales
with patience be assembled

or is it her dive
headfirst and what she catches
in me watching her
great-winged bird bold against the sky
I can’t see her      beautyless

from ‘starboard blueboard’ again


restless, unable to sleep one still summer night long ago after rain, a boy copied out a poem written in the afternoon, thinking to bring it to a yellow-haired girl’s house.  he rode there through the quiet streets, clouds breaking up to let the stars watch him go.  her house was dark.  he left his bicycle under a tree by the street and quickly crossed the big yard to the porch steps.  as he started up, the wood creaked under his bare feet, and he paused, but then went on, careless of whom he woke, going to her bicycle, to leave the poem in her basket.

how he didn’t hear the door open he didn’t know, but when he turned, a yellow-haired girl was standing there, watching him.   she said,  another poem for me?

when he nodded, she walked over and took the folded paper from her basket.  she held it, looking at it, unfolded, a moment, before looking again at the boy.   he saw her in a way he had never seen anything, as though every moment they had ever spent together, every thought he’d ever had of her, was there, on that porch, alive in the night, and all through his growing body.

unable to hold himself back, he spoke these verses to her

black as egrets are
white            as cloudless midday sky
is deep        fish crows come
to a heartcurved treetop       wild
as my thoughts in flight with you 

From ‘starboard blue board’


lying in his rocking garvey one summer evening long ago, a boy watched how overhead a pair of young herring gulls flew together, arcing up, spinning as though on wingtip, cartwheeling in the air.

only seeing the gray birds did he realize he had been sleeping, how long he did not know. the sky beyond them was deep still blue, but then, they were in the sky, so the blue was not beyond them at all. he heard the water lapping and kissing the hull all around him, and he watched as moment by moment the two birds, young, tireless in their play over him, glowed more and more gold. every moment everything changed — the gulls’ gold deepened and the blue darkened and the water’s kisses kept on, ceaseless. he felt the weight of his body, its stillness and yet all the movement within, breath and blood and awareness. too many things were happening. he let it all go and watched the gulls.

only when the light was finally gone and it seemed he was alone did he sit up, get his notebook and the pen a yellow-haired girl had given him, and write these verses

see how evening sun
turns everything even gulls
graywinged and playing
over the still water gold
end of day no end at all

where the gulls had flown off to he did not know, or if they had at all. he still saw them, and wrote again

two gulls turned evening
gold as they gray play in flight
over the still bay
the setting sun takes her time
herself too saturated

as he wrote, he felt, the halves of the pen’s nib open like wings folded on a gull’s back, and the flow of the ink, its flight on the page, even in the darkness, in the stillness of the vast sky shared with the bay around him. he wrote yet again, not to hold something, but to let it go

in sunset flightdance
two fineformed gray gulls turn gold
night’s coming then day
again again and again
these gulls even gold still gulls

from ‘starboard blueboard’


a boy woke suddenly one midnight long ago.  he felt the bed holding him rocking the way his patched old garvey rocked on the bay, or was it a slower, bigger rolling, the one he felt out beyond the breakers, where he went for the peace to be found there.

in the pale moonlight he wrote these verses on the first blank page he found in his notebook

in this still darkness
a sudden unexpected
scent of ocean salt
no holding back then    these waves
let them take me    out     to         sea

the nest found

the nest found

lying in the grass it seemed
at first nothing but a ball
of grass and birch bark white
somehow gathered collected rolled
together but of course such things
do they often happen without help
and this not happenstance but
a nest fallen woven with care with
if it’s not bold to say love and hope
a nest for eggs for lives to begin
and grow and even such a one as this
delicate and soft and now lost 
to all but me for what it still 
may hold I will not let it go

egret taking wing


Is it the effort floats the grace
Not like the muttering mallards
who share the marsh pool
with the white —
Them — they open their wings
open and beating they’re gone
the water the morning left behind
But you — how your legs
flex — how you longnecked
draw arrowhead back
as though to strike —
how your wings open feathers
how spread all whiteness
white even in the brown
the water that would hold you fast —
All wings and legs — white
White altogether too white to be
as all together
all at once
yet slow
your legs push to straight
your neck releases arrowhead
skyward as your wings
your white wings gather
the instant —
And slow — air — breath — vision —
yes even the seeing slow as your wings
slow stroke by stroke
against the songfilled air
lift you O to flight —
Effort — yes slowed to visibility
that we should know
how grace is gained

green-winged teals

Not hiding but almost
hidden among the reeds
slender and brown
around the edge
where marsh gives way
to water — gray —
dull — the day drowsy
gray too the one — his body
though not dull — alive
his blackeyed head brown
banded green as spring
The other
a bit of earth of soil — ripe

These two the only birds
yet — disinterested they seem
one to the other
her dabbling while he
heedless — modest —
as though needing nothing
more than his own grace

Then suddenly Sun
bursts through clouds
in downpour — enchanting
in an instant
this secret pond this pair
who kept so quiet there — unseen

They must feel it — the light
all around alive — for they rise —
together rise modesty cast aside
on wings aflutter —
careless — sunsoaked —
And there in motion bared
their secret their bond
the spread of feathers shared —
numinous — O green

It’s an instant only —
Clouds close fast
veiling sun — wings close too
modest —
and calm again
all around life quiets —

These two —
teals —
They work the marshedge
as though once again
separate —
indifferent —
mere dabblers —
As though once beheld
that green — theirs
could be unseen


Look — two swans white
pass close to shore
White as mountain peaks
White as snow
As sunbloom cloud
everblossoming in blue
White as the distance between

Silent and still they pass
Necks eloquent in their curve
and the lush white fullness
of bodies held chaste
Ecstatic behind featherblade wings

O they pass but motionless
Water sky and all
the world it is
that moves by them
Their serenity white
ecstasy still and silent

They pass unmoving — two
but in reflection
one in the other — one
which is neither one nor two
but a stillness white
a holding mute on the water

Watch — they don’t take wing
already beyond reach of all
but the flight of longing
that would have them simply beautiful
Look — they pass
Yet see how still they remain