turning tide


Through salt marsh, grassy channel where the shark’s
A rumor – lean, alongside – rides out boat;
For of us off with picnic-things and wine.
Pasty tufty clutters of the mud called pluff,
Sun on the ocean tingles like a kiss.
About the fourth hour of the falling tide.

The six-hour-falling, six-hour-rising tide
Turns heron-haunts to alleys for the shark.
Tide-waters kiss and loosen; loosen, kiss.
Black-hooded terns blurt kazoo-talk – our boat
Now in midchannel and now rounding pluff.
Lolling we eye the mud-tufts. Eye the wine.

The Atlantic, off there, dazzles. Who said wine –
Dark sea? Not this sea. Not at noon. The tide
Runs gold as chablis over sumps of pluff.
Too shallow here for lurkings of shark,
His nose-cone, grin unsmiling, Cr-ush! The boat
Shocks, shudders – grounded. An abrupt tough kiss.

Our outboard’s dug a mud-trough. Call that kiss?
Bronze knee bruised. A fair ankle gashed. With ‘wine-
Dark blood’ a bard’s on target here. The boat
Swivels, propeller in a pit, as tide
Withdraws in puddles round us – shows the shark-
Grey fin, grey flank, grey broadening humps of pluff.

Fingers that trailed in water, fume in pluff.
Wrist-deep, they learn how octopuses kiss.
Then – shark fins? No. Three dolphins there – shhh! – arc
Coquettish. As on TV. Cup of wine
To you, slaphappy sidekicks! with the tide’s
Last hour a mudflat draining round the boat.

The hourglass turns. Look, tricklings toward the boat,
The first hour, poky, picks away at pluff.
The second, though, swirls currents. Then the tide’s
Third, fourth – abundance! The great ocean’s kiss.
The last two slacken. So? We’re free for wine
And gaudier mathematics. Toast the shark,

Good shark, a no-show. Glory floats our boat.
We, with the wine remaining – done with pluff –
Carouse on the affluent kisses of the tide.