Rolling down to Virginia
in a gray shuttle – the rain
cascades off the windows.
I close my eyes but I can’t sleep.
I don’t know anyone here
well enough to be that kind
of comfortable. We reach the bay bridge
but the fog is so thick it’s like we’re suspended,
or we never left the ground to begin with –
no water beneath this bridge.
It isn’t raining in Wachapreague,
for now, the wind is cold
and it blows the clouds away.
If I shield my eyes to the sun
I can see way out past the tidal creeks
and the salt grass – out to the Atlantic.
Later, rain comes in waves –
we cook dinner and joke about ghosts,
and I wonder how many of my own
I brought here with me.
What a privilege to own a boat –
to be your own captain, or even
just to know the waves. The sun is brilliant
but the wind burns cold – before the end
of the day, my nose and cheeks
are lobster-red. It’s so easy to get lost
in the tidal creeks – just acres and acres
of spartina, flat and brown now
but six feet tall in the summertime.
We dredge up creatures from the bottom –
***** and worms and sea slugs.
We eat lunch on a graveyard of shells –
I find the empty husks of horseshoe *****.
Eagles and oyster catchers watch us pass
sit tight on similar whitewashed mounds
of expired homes. The sun is low
when we reach the mudflats –
here the earth is shallow. Seven ways
to catch a clam, but I only know one –
to look for holes that bubble. I fill
my pockets with the dark misshapen
creatures. Sometimes the holes
rush full of water before I can even see
what I dug up. Soon the tide will come back
and swallow the wet sand again.
I want to stay put, watch the muddy water come
learn to filter through it
like the oysters and the clams.
Early morning on the bayside –
wind, more brutal than yesterday
beats the surface until the waves
are whitecaps, and the skiff pitches.
We go back to the tidal creeks,
where the trees block the wind
and the sun illuminates the muddy water.
We watch an osprey glide and dive for fish.
Back in the lab, isolated in white
I see strange animals. For hours
we look for answers to the simplest
of questions: what is this?
Some creatures we toss back
and some we wrap in clear plastic bags.
The long ride home –
half between sleeping and waking
drenched in sunlight. I’m small,
or trying to be – conserving space
wherever I can. I eat my fill of ginger snaps.
The bay bridge is crystal clear this morning
and it gives me a strange feeling, deep
in my stomach – somewhere between
excitement and dread, a fear
or a nod toward what’s coming –
a mystery, creeping in and unfurling
like when I was a kid, awake too late at night
feeling dumb, for hoping, for wanting,
and most of all, for not yet knowing.