America in Solitude

Today a woman rakes in the shallows,
then bends to receive the last rays of shimmering
water, her long shadow knifing the bay.
She moves to watch the sky flame
over sand flats, a hawk’s wind arabesque,
an island risen, brown Atlantis at low tide;
she probes the shoreline & beyond grassy dunes
for where land might slope off into night.
Hers is no common emptiness, but a vaster silence
filled with gulls’ cries, an abundant solitude.
In perfect solitude, there’s fire.
She walks, the beach ablaze
with dogwood in full bloom to her side,
a bleached shirt flapping alone on a laundry line,
arms pointed down. The sun is setting.
She exhibits four clams like racehorses at auction:
Buttercup, Holland, Crimson Tide, Lucky Lady.
She picks one up & in its cold jolted memory:
a gull building strength to fly at any moment, leaping
from the sand, whirling into the air, burning
in light & raving in shadow. A lonely small gull
flying through desolation & grasslands,
lightless color, the way one understands
some true heart is feeling blue shores, clouds,
the color of every grain of sand drying
water arising as perfume,
every inner murky small grain beaten alone,
its grit, the individuality dark flume.
Wanting more she knows beauty strikes just once,
hard, never in comfort, for that better fruit,
tasting of earth & song. She’d risk exile.
She would forfeit mist for hail,
put on a robe of feathers,
& run out broken,
to weep & curse—for joy.