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The Way Tide Comes

ISSUE:  Spring 1975

IT came close from out far,
the way tide comes, changing
its levels with such consistent
slowness that—before I
knew it—height became depth,
and where you danced barefoot,

a half-tide ago, covered itself,
under so moving a shimmer
I could not conceive of the weight,
or recall all those shapes
the weight, as it climbed, erased.
We’d kept to old ways, building

a beachfire well above tideline,
ritual at the pure height of summer;
we’d piled driftwood on,
all we could gather. I was
skipping flat stones, you
were trying to keep count; leaning

to throw, I felt distances shift:
it was no longer coming but
like the light of summer itself,
longest the day when summer began,
had already flooded and made
its insistent turn. As once it came

slowly, so now it pulls back
with the quick of evening light:
it will, in due time, uncover
the furthest rocks we swam up on,
even the morning shallows where we
first waded. Tonight’s full moon

has already cast off the horizon
it hugely climbed; it’s going, before
long, to tug the whole cove empty.
We slept once pretending a larger
knowledge; now we love better.
Let love be; let the heel-and-toe

of your improvised jig, marginal
even at noon, or my sweater,
speared by the branch of a beachlog,
remain our private highwater mark.
There’s nothing left, nothing to add,
for which the tide will not account:

fire—our awkward toes where
we yield—the periwinkles’ slow track;
no matter how we want, beyond doubt,
to stay the tide or inform it, we
come in time to inform ourselves: we have
to follow it all the way out.


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