The dollardom shore of big Lake Michigan
finds him doing what he did as a boy
by real seas, running alongside them:
the land’s hem stitched, he’d look
back upon a long beach emptied
by twilight (his spoor blurred as if already
old), and turn it to Avalon, or Crusoe’s island.
Even on the edge of Central Africa
he had to change into somewhere else
what they would always be alone with
after the bush-drive; imagining this
not ever seen, not watched, kept
locked from eyes like a schoolgirl’s journal –
older than lungs, earlier even than gill slits
or the hair-like cilia of bivalves, the sea-edge
stroking backwards through deep time
and the blasts of geology, silvering his prints
from laval sand with the stands of palm-trees
cupped from sight by his hand . . . then find,
on the slow walk back, an impress or two
the sweeps of foam had missed: fossils
of some unknown future, or ears listening
through billions of years of hiss for the delicate cry.
This imminence . . . an English distillation
of lowering hedges, a hammer-weight of heat
on the accomplishing ferns: everything tending
to cataclysm, fiddling while even dawn burns.
We wait: things might get worse (the hearse
ticking by the cemetery gate). The silence of birds
we don’t look up to, now we’re up to things.
The calm freight of clouds too late to count.