One morning on the eastern shore of a western island, I awakened early and decided to go for a walk along the beach. The firm sand bore no footprints but my own. The tide was still out. The air was chilly and damp, the sky dark with low, heavy cloud. No wind.

            Before I turned back toward breakfast, I stopped to listen and look. The poet in me had been awakened by that bleak stretch of seascape with the water’s edge creeping in so surreptitiously. With my coat buttoned tight, hands in pockets, my sensitivities opened wide for a while.

            Strolling slowly along, I came quite close to a crowd of silent gulls. One silent gull is almost a miracle. A whole flock of them just quietly standing around was more like an impossible dream. What happened as I approached them eventually became this poem.


The morning mountains of the world
            lie here beneath my feet –
                        these rippled flats of sand,
                        a wrinkled image of the ancient sea.
Gray gulls stand here with me.
            A hundred eyes in steady stare
                        meet mine.
We wait in silence under these gray skies
            and over there all-whelming waters rise
                        to come and claim their own.
We wait together, gulls and I,
            with an ageless understanding,
                        tugging a little now and then
                        at the unseen ties
                        that hold us one to other
on the shore.

The trickling fingers of the sea
            reach out for them and me,
            groping ever closer
                        up these tiny valleys,
                        covering every hill,
            revisiting the shapes it chose to make
                        from all those snow-capped mountains
                        that towered long ago
above the shore.

Around these well-fed gulls
            lie empty shells –
                        yesterday the shores
                        of soft-fleshed lives.
            Behind those sturdy walls
                        dim dreams were dreamed
                        in safety from the rasping sea.
            But that was yesterday.
                        Today those shells
are shore.

The gulls –
            gray statues whose ancestral race
                        is older still than mine,
                        but not so ancient as the sea –
            stand silently with me,
Here every dawn
            they dine with death
upon the shore.

A bit of drifting bark
            floats in
                        and nods toward me.
            long ago
something of the shore
            slowly pulled itself up
                        straight and tall.
It stretched its arms out
            against the sky
                        for twenty thousand days.
One night it fell asleep
            and slumbered in the sea.
                        No waking now.
This was its bark –
            a shore for living wood;
            a shield from deadly, drying wind –
                        back once more,
                        shifting among the sands
along the shore.

I have a shore.
To some I am a shore.

With other shores
I stand upon this continental rim,
            this endless ocean edge –
            upon this rim of time to come,
while everywhere
            this present massive moment,
                        into that-then-there
beyond the shore.

            above those eastern mountains
                        a sword of light comes slashing through
                        and parts those murky clouds.
            Their edges gleam with gold.
I stand in awe
            beneath a canopy of splendor.
                        Even the solemn sea
                        now glistens with the dawn
up to the shore.


My cry,
            lifting hands into the light,
                        sends every gull into the air,
                        screaming, screeching,
            in life-saving flight
above the shore.

            a hundred dull gray wings and tails
                        transfigure into glowing gems
            in the light that streams aloft
above the shore.

That glorious light,
            shining through the clouds,
                        shining from beyond,
            far above the sea,
                        can touch with radiant beauty
            any present moment
on any shore.