Along the Darkening Shore

by Janet Kenny

Under the fire-ball evening sky the sea
gentled around my toes. The sand was rose
and golden as the furtive tide encroached
and crept inshore. Here was the verb “to be”.
“To do” was walking lengthwise through the wash
as tribal lorikeets massed high in trees
that fringed the beach for miles. Cicadas beat
their ground-bass brightly for the silver stream
of parrot-screech and gossip in their roost.

“Shhh,” said the water, “listen to the world.
Nothing is what it was. It only seems
the same. Walk through my shallows. There’s no cost
but loss of wanting. You are growing old
yet nothing that you value will be lost.
Look at that woman older than you, yet she
landed a sting-ray on the beach. She knew
what was beneath my gentle velvet face.
Nothing is harmless. Neither she nor you.
Both of you may bring death close to this place.
Did you observe the woman up the beach?
Shrieking that nothing was familiar. ‘Where?
Where am I now?’ she screamed but no one spoke.
Near her a man stood motionless and stared
at the horizon, paying her no heed.
She crumpled sobbing. He refused to look.
Dark in the bat-filled sky a gliding kite
searched for bewildered wanderers in the night.”

Water and I moved miles along the edge.
Water came in and I—walked still along
paddling and wading in deceptive calm
warmed by the day’s remembered tropic sun.
Even the roosting lorikeets were hushed.
“Water, I feel respect but do not trust
water nor fire nor air. I come from dust.”

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