These tracks haven’t been used in years, and now this stretch runs through an unsanctioned bird sanctuary on the north end of the island. The wind slips and slithers through the tall reeds of the salt marsh, bringing the smell of chimney smoke from the houses, bearing it out toward Mt. Hope Bay where I catch glimpses of ships that sunk here long ago and silent sea monsters who offer no advice, instead swimming slow circles through leaden water. Across gray waves, a hazy power plant lights a coastal town in Massachusetts. Above me, seagulls fly about the gray sky arguing about food and nesting rights. It’s cool but not cold. Nice but not heaven. A seasonless day. A timeless day. A day like any other. I make a photograph and leave, walking the tracks back toward home, following the steps of those long gone creatures, sick of quahogs and lobster, who gave up the ocean for the land, the lapping of the waves and smell of salt growing fainter with each step taken toward a different evolution far from any sea.
We sit in an old lifeguard tower. June fog has settled in over the harbor along with a gray and darkening night. Diffused light from the wharves finds us, but not without losing coherence causing it to bump into things and mumble apologies as it winds its way over the rocks. Buoy bells ring and ships’ horns echo through the thick mist. The air is a solid, tangible, carrier of sound and moisture. You could touch it as easily as breathe it. Stealing into our cells, it seals us into in our own worlds, and we’re lost to the eternal rhythm of the bay and a shared solitude broken only at the seams of isolation where our bodies touch at the shoulder, along the arms and maybe at the edges of opposite canvas-sneakered feet. We float into the water and submerge into the strange intoxication of waves beating deep and endless against the rocks wearing away and disappearing so slowly that no one knows they’re sneaking atom by atom back into the sea. “I wouldn’t give this up for a million dollars,” she whispers. I nod, and we settle back into the shared experience of immensity and time and stillness. A foghorn grumbles through the night.
JAMES BRUSH lives in Austin, TX with his wife, cat and two rescued greyhounds. He teaches English in a juvenile correctional facility. His poems have appeared most recently at Four and Twenty, qarrtsiluni and on scraps of paper around his house. He published his first novel, A Place Without a Postcard, in 2003. He can be found online at Coyote Mercury (http://coyotemercury.com/blog1).