The Last Day
A cup in the dune. To my right
The argumentative Spanish Bayonet;
to my left and behind, this ancient undulation
rises ten feet in tangle of palmetto.
It isn’t always tropical here
on Skinny Island; there’s a good six months
of battering by north winds; balmy, to be sure
at times, but days on end of gray
relentless clouds as well, and cold,
and so, to be near the ocean
I hunker down in natural windbreak
and watch the hardy grass,
the last eastward vegetation
of the continent, bend
in unspeakable, silent grace,
writing, at its jubilant, farthest tips
something in the sand
which will remain incomprehensible
to the last day, breaking then, the bonds
of earth, and sea, and sky.
This one heart-shaped, Entada gigas,
monkey-ladder, coeur de la mere,
the sea-heart drift seed, washed
to the mouth of the Amazon
from jungle interior, then out to sea,
the North Equatorial Current,
fed by the Canary, and finally
the Gulf Stream, a capricious inside eddy,
and this beach on Skinny Island.
A floating memory of time
before time; of unimagined depths,
St. Julian’s universe
in the palm of the hand.
And what to do with it now,
knowing what we’ve stumbled
onto knowing on a casual morning?
What radiance lingers past first light;
what warm, encapsulated mother’s voice?
A pale sun struggles to warm
Even itself, I think, as I, in watch cap, hiking boots,
Jeans, flannel shirt, and fleece-lined northwest jacket
Walk the frontier ocean edge of this busy island.
It is cold; for here, we natives always add in conversation,
Not meaning to convince the ones we sometimes meet,
The ones in shorts and flip-flops, our seasonal neighbors,
But rather to simply stand our ground, confirming,
With deference, a regional objectivity to quietly counter
The smug assurance brought down in carpet bags,
Dispensed, like bread to the hungry. If you say so,
One recently responded. But the birds know.
Black Skimmers yesterday, Brown and Gray Gulls today
Mix with the few resident Willets and Sandpipers before
Continuing their migration south. Not yet, not here; it is
Still too cold here. Even the tundra-bred Black-bellied Plover,
Roundly resplendent in high contrast herringbone,
Linger only days, aloof and solitary. Stay, I say; stay a while.
You I understand. Furtive when approached, respectful
Of distances between, you are the perfect neighbor.
Poet Samuel Harrison’s work has appeared in Harper's, Southern Humanities Review, Sojourners, Christian Century and The Anglican Theological Review. He is the author of two novels, Walls of Blue Coquina and Birdsong Ascending, both published by Harcourt.