Walk out between the hydrozoans
blooming on the beach.
Or anyway, they've bloomed:
clear jelly fingerprints, lavished
on the sands: Cnideria was here.
A few strewn blue-lipped bodies, still
plump with sea-shout,
On what occasion did cold Pacific
order such bouquets?
Wrack line implacably delivers.
Bare of foot to climb the rocks
and ford the greengold deepblue braided streams,
my mind comes late to contemplate
toxins, fishkills, all the usual news
read through my soles.
A new study tells us alcohol
will take years off your life.
Which years? — a friend,
his glass upraised. Who says I want them?
Can you exchange this salted rim for a day
to breathe the salt in wind, bury
sandy toes? Would you trade that silty burrowing,
halve your joy, for fear?
Another friend is dying.
Forty-five, and braided through
with tumors like the seaward grains of sand.
Did some choice — hers, a government's,
shareholders' — steal those years? Blindly bargained
woman, fierce and generous and loved. No
answers serve. Reach and touch the tangled
endless openness, where,
pitiless, at unprotected feet,
the wrack line lays down all the gifts
that wash in our direction.
We are here.
Barefoot in the sand
with open hands.
Tara Shepersky is a taxonomist, poet, essayist, and landscape enthusiast, with tangled roots in half a dozen soils of America's West. If pressed, she'll tell you that the redwood forests of furthest Northern California are the home of her heart.