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    Skinny Island

    Samuel Harrison

    September 15, 2014
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    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.

    Sea Bean

    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?

    Seasonal Neighbors

    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.

     

    Sand, fence, and sea beyond.
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