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Tidal Meetings


In the first of May, 2010, I posted an old poem on the board's Poetry Spectrum forum called "By The Sea." The Gulf's Macondo spill is what brought it to mind. I've decided to make a field note out of another old poem also brought to mind by the spill.

I grew up on a Florida peninsula barely a quarter mile wide. Its environment shaped my first 16 years. The ocean on one side, beach white sandy and wide, and a brackish tidal river on the other, much of which was marshland and spawning grounds for both marine and avian life. A marsh is a porous ecozone. There is no finite, distinct separation between ground and water, not like a beach head facing the ocean. Porous is the only word to describe a tidal marsh. Porousness, I've decided, is the single grand metaphor. Both the arts and sciences stand as my proof. And the third element in my environment was the peninsula itself. However many millenia ago it would have appeared as a sandbar. Over the course of time it got built up by wave and current actions, one grain of sand at a time, until finally it could support flora, then fauna. Scrub oak trees, squat and wind shaped, and palmettos dominated. Lantana was a common flower because it could thrive in sandy soil.

My days and nights were dominated by this trifold environment. I did not have to go on vacation to find nature. All it needed was to step out the front door, sometimes the side door when I was sneaking out late at night. You could find me either on the beach, usually body surfing, or on the river, called the Halifax. In the river there were also islands and acres and acres and acres of oyster beds. And saw grass echoing in symmetry the beach's sea oats. If you couldn't find me it was because I was either in the peninsula's overgrowth of scrub brush or I had rowed out to one of the islands. Dolphins. I remember dolphins maybe more than any other animal, except for the pelicans. Both species were equally as home in both sea and tidal river. Pelicans nested on the islands in the river, flew overhead, fished for mullet in the ocean. Dolphins would come up into the river by way of Ponce Inlet, threading the surface the way they do, also fishing. Reptilean life, crustacean, arachnid life. I knew I was in their elelment, they not in mine.

Once as a grown man I returned to Florida, lived in St Augustine for three years. There too the environment was dominated by ocean and tidal river and marshland. The river is called the Matanzas. Anecdotally the word means river of slaughter, having to do with a stand off between Spanish Catholic and French Huegonot colonialists in which the French lost badly, got massacered. Aside from keeping to a three year death watch over my mother's last years the two big things I did in that time was to surf fish obsessively, sometimes twelve hours a day, mostly there for the tidal pull on my legs, and write a novel that looked to map out another kind of scrub brush, mostly involving keeping to the strict rules of the emotions.

There is a reason for the reminiscence. Because of the environment that formed me, involving ocean, tidal river, and a narrow strip of land in between, it is the environment that has always struck me as the face of eternity. Oceans control land mass in everything from climate to shape. In the marshes of tidal rivers so much of sea life gets spawned. It is a porous nursery. Because of the Deepwater Horizon disaster I am forced to wrap my brain around something incomprehensible. That I am old fashioned and that I am wrong. The environment that shaped me is not eternal. (Being porous spells out the death of Louisiana's marshlands. They cannot be cleaned of oil.) I cannot always return to it, looking for nurture, even for salvation. So you see? My prose poem, and because of a quick and fiery explosion in the Gulf bringing into final relief the accumulated death of Gulf coast wetlands, has overnight passed its expiration date. From the St Augustine years:



Tidal Meetings

The first to go are always ego and mask. And they fall away as you trip over the spongy bed border, as you trip back over into those deeper, slide rules of the marsh.

The palmetto palm scrub brush
and the live oak running cover.
The milk light then that
washes away your disdain
until nothing keeps the same again.

Then the tidewater urge that sets you running behind the barrier island's finger, and where you go bending down beneath the coquina pastel of late sunlight, looking for what is unsecured, an underwater region, the submerged dark garden.

Fish-gill breathing,
seahorse cutting the surface.
And the fantail mullet
veering your way in reach
and in quick alchemy.

It's then you tack a breeze, relearning how to ride to a river girl's design. The kestrels, crowned cardinals, the hover of kingfishers, wood ibises flying in larger, concentric circles, or the osprey who evenly wings it down the river. All of whom soar inside the jawline of the jetty where the porpoises come through, threading through, and where the manatee comes up to spy around, being suggestive enough of an original, water divinity.

It's what a slender waisted
river girl is meant for,
these smaller moments flying,
or swimming inside protected waters.
And not for trappers of dreams
like swallows building into banks,
or the diesel drive,
and how many more?

But have you ever seen she who comes from the sea? Ever seen her riding in on top of the heavy white wave coming from out of her triangular sea? have you ever actually wanted to carry her out of the broken surf, ever been sure of her intentions? Ever trembled, given over, as she's washed away the last remaining fiber of driftwood deeds?

The skirt she wore
like a fish net,
and that unmistakable
life scent;
and the light dreams
that shower down her spine
in the big bottom morning,
her water cloud mood,
leaning out of her secret stage
and still the dream.

It's the dream that becomes. The dream that becomes the guide star bearing. And this one opens up a night-sky sea, a mother night dream. Her face all and evenly night blue, as is the cloak she wears. Her hands hold me to her body. Her fingers pressing into my sides tell of all there is to need to know about the oceanic scheme she takes us through, about the charged order of things that fits her like a silky slip. And she never speaks, never gives me the chance to tell her how lovely, how really lovely she looks. She just carries me up to her like a dead son she's come for, except I am not dead anymore. And then comes her rolling, swollen and private answer to the unspoken question. And it falls through her face like a liquid smile, like the source of summer start spreading through us both. Just a whisper, just a shiver, just a yes. Just the phosphorescent shower running through her indigo cloak like ten thousands stars spangling in night's black wind.

Mother of night,
daughters of lights,
sisters of mercy.
And then again when
there's a certain journey.

Terreson

Last edited by Terreson, Jan/8/2012, 12:54 pm
Jun/10/2010, 5:23 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Re: Tidal Meetings


Bringing to the top an old post, a little revised.

Tere
Jan/7/2012, 7:08 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
Christine98 Profile
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Re: Tidal Meetings


This is so rich and atmospheric, Tere, I can't believe I didn't respond to it when first posted. My bad. Thanks for bringing it back,

Chris
Jan/8/2012, 9:50 am Link to this post Send Email to Christine98   Send PM to Christine98
 
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Re: Tidal Meetings


Glad then that I brought the note forward.

Tere
Jan/8/2012, 1:59 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 


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