I’ve been awhile away. They’ve mown the summer meadow.
Apple trees emerge beside the winter-tumbled granite wall
where morning glories run, as if in search of a shingled porch
and the trellis they once climbed. I’ve been awhile away.
I used to sit on the last of the narrow gauge’s railroad ties
fallen from the roadside into the sand. It’s streaked more
since the spring, now sepia and coppery-gold as it sinks
deeper into the sea grass. Near the tiny marina, the town
has placed a platform, bolting down a memorial bench
for the Tiernans, Arthur and Grace, whom I never knew.
A late sharp east wind herds the clouds like a collie,
their woolly shoulders colliding in confusion, turning
the current navy, then bright as they stumble and race
over hummocks and crab holes. I’ve seen a world here:
the widowed swan, circling her dark reflection in a pool;
snowy egrets’ yellow beaks nervously plucking the flats;
a Great Blue Heron, almost within reach, considering me,
before lifting its wide Prussian blue and slate-colored wings
and long stalk legs straight out behind it, the black toes
delicately pointed as the first ballet slippers of a child.
I’ve seen a hillside, burning; The Madonna of the Universe;
heard the keen, elusive aria of the red-winged blackbird
as it suddenly flicked its way to where Evy lies. I’ve seen
gulls on patrol; salt hay that gleamed in the sargassos of June
lie down heat-struck in August, whispering with thirst.
I’ve eavesdropped on the gossip of phragmites and sumac.
I’ve watched winter rain rattling the waves out to sea, the tide
leaving its lace as an offering at my feet. I’ve been awhile away.
My little marsh. I won’t come back because you’ve filled me.
The red king will never win his silver-haired mistress, the moon.