for Jonathan, Robert, Donald, & Jim
On this walk
the bones of the beach
glow. They choose their light
from moon’s candle, that great
wax face – diffuse glow, small kindle,
she shaves her light on shells below.
Rocks like waves, waves like handker-
chiefs’ white goodbye and hello.
This is the assembly of memory. Narratives
linked to years, cities swept
to our collective core. It is clear
what to show you all
on this beach, in this year:
shower of barnacles, transport
of doors, the limned tide
line etched, accretion
of shell and bone.
We rummage the scrim
of tide to place memories –
that dim sum San Francisco?
on your DuPont Circle floor?
your Palisades wedding
a straight continuum –
south to north,
our haunts along the way: L.A.,
Monterey, Seattle, English Bay.
Time returns and it is Pacific
with artifacts of passage
piled up on the shore –
lozenged wood, bivalves sprung
some winged heart.
Who said the mark of the planets was cheap?
North-facing thirty-year thrust and we
are all on the gangplank of youth and forced
to jump off. Who? said the scars of orbit
were cheap? Time a tide in extreme
transference, the litter at tideline
the depth: sea star, rock tooth, ridge
chip and barnacle, shed
in a shower of bone.
The canister, a corner-
stone unearthed, with thirty years’ lore:
Santa Cruz, Berkeley, Marin, each
a place we met once more.
transference – our teachers scraped us
open to learn. Primed to intercept
what they wanted, taught,
but could no longer
endure. Eco-Calvinism? Tyranny
of the new? It had not
the depth to hold. What
did, they gave us, to stave
against loss of sea and time: doubt
and deep questions – attack
and reconciliation –
with the sand spit, the rock
stack, bone pile, sea. In short,
with the thin unflinching thing —
the spiral song of air and tree, eagle’s
swoop on flat, unmoving wing, coyote
locked in its move / don’t move / catch it / move /
frozen motion of being.
I play out
different ventures with the tides. I sound out
the subtle wallow of the sea. I weave
from the slope of air and stone
a melody, your spirit,
that inhabits part of me.
Fitting your oars, fitting your ears
and the white coast draws away –
naked as the bleak
mountain. Suddenly acid,
the green hive of sea grass
comes to steal everything –
memory, place, departure point –
the hood the moon pulls over
her vague and youthful face. I wanted
each of you in turn. Desire
was an engine driving
a fantastic sojourn. And now
with the threat of death upon us,
and so many ghostly fathers gone before,
I always knew I loved you –
I just wasn’t sure what for.