Saturday, September 15, 2018

Hawk-Watchers




There must be a collective noun
for hawk-watchers on a mountain.
Drove? Paddling? Sloth? Bask? Clowder?
Mostly men in late middle age,
beards and baseball caps, sporting
binoculars and spotting scopes
worth more than my house. We note
their focus, their fixation on dots
barely discernible from cloud
above the gloomy neighboring peak.

You’re impressed that they believe
that at such terrible distance
they can sort broad-shouldered
from red-tail hawk. You admit
you can hardly tell a hawk from
a handsaw, but we agree that
effete literary allusions
have no place amid the krummholz
and exposed granite ledge,
no currency with hawk-watchers
guzzling bottled water and gazing
into the misty ephemera
to mark their count on the board.

I’m surprised to see osprey
listed among the aeronauts
counted for the sake of counting.
You’re startled to note peregrines
among the various raptors,
since you thought them European.
We’re all friends in the bird-world,
fellow travelers in the blue.
That blue today is cloud-marbled
with an elegant texture absorbing
the long arcs of flight. The shadows
cast by the clouds shuffle across
the wooded landscape below us.     

We agree that even if merged
our eyesight wouldn’t allow us
to join the count. Eleven hundred
birds so far this season, each
a construction so elaborate
nothing human can approach it,
our most agile acts of intellect
still falling well short of flight.


Sunday, August 19, 2018

Weed-Words



A bold orange mat of seaweed
coughed up on the pebbly shore.
Peering into its stringy texture,
I can almost taste its origin
on the mud-bottom where snails

pimple the filtered sunlight
and crabs stalk about and sneer.
You doubt that crabs actually sneer,
but admit they raise their large claws
with defiance, no matter the threat.

I don’t want to suggest that all such
gestures evolve toward the human,
but their weight outweighs the creature
itself. This mass of tangled weed
looks like the discarded toupee

of a disgruntled giant, maybe
a cyclops tired of seeing
the world in two dimensions.
Maybe you could try on a fistful
to cap your plain brown coiffure.

You don’t want this sea-slime mess
crowning your simple outlook?
I’d try it myself, but my lack
of dignity is landlocked, shy
of such brazen sea-wrought colors.

If I had the courage of a crab
or the persistence of a snail
I’d discard my ordinary clothes
and cloak myself in seaweed
and stalk abroad like Poseidon

in his entire godly anger.
I’d frighten the locals and laugh
a full-chested laugh you’d admire—
the only manly expression
your womanly wit couldn’t best.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Herring Cove





Fog upholsters Herring Cove,
snuffing the sea horizon
with Leonardo’s sfumato
obscuring distinctions you
and I used to think mattered.
Surf has rounded the beach stones
so they gloss in the fitful rain.
Slickered up for the weather,
we pose in various poses
safely distant from each other
to maintain the you and I.
A few islets drift through the mist,
then nothing but raw Atlantic.

We could walk to Iceland from here
on Campobello, where tourists
in bright weather golf and wander,
spending US and Canadian
dollars with equal fervor.
We could walk if the water
were only the ghost of water,
as it seems to be at this moment.
But to punctuate the absence
of form, a seal head perks
from the gray, a black rubber nub
smirking as it confronts us.

Lending weight to the filmy air,
the seal head nails us to a view
we had hardly thought a view
a moment ago. We shuffle
closer to each other and stare
so hard at the water that one
more seal head appears. Two
look at two. Now the sea, lacking
the imperative of surf, closes
gently over the slick black spots
to leave us staring more deeply
into nothing we hadn’t noticed
was nothing two minutes ago.