Between moonlight and water, my ghosts
scroll through the sea with spent
fishing line, trapped creatures.
If moonlight could drown,
stars, salt, depth.
I hear them in the wind:
whale songs and Yiddish prayers.
The palm fronds whoosh.
Not so much a story remembered
but pieces of a net
in the shell-bright moon.
Diaspora of flotsam,
whelk, coral wracks
the tide-line, seaborn and strange.
Sometimes, I hear laughter
in the wind. Sometimes, a kid
stands at the shore, shouts then fades
to expanding blue.
Water slips through the net— time loosened up, relative to arcing terns. The waves shimmer.
Facing the Sea
Early October and after
the rain, I stand at the shore.
Water sighs. Clouds shift and light
spins silver. Call of the plover
pierces the blue. I carry my ghosts
to the tide and release them as stones.
Black rock offered to sunken cypress.
Shadows skim the hills.
Leaves dance at the edge of the water.
Your footsteps pound in the waves
breaking. Call it ghosts or call it
a sandal left in the sand. The wind
surrounds. The jagged rim
of the sea spills over.
Gulls wheel, and the sea uproots.
We find each other from a great distance
and laugh. The coastline spirals
beyond us. Mist exhales down.
Over the cypress, the beating
wings of an absent bird.
Rain hisses at the pages;
the trees unravel their green fire.
Shells scatter. The mist dissolves the hills
the way memory will erase
a face to the fog
of breath on a window.
Clouds reflect in the surf.
Water rushes. I glimpse
you—no, a palm frond.
Through wind and sea and cloud, shadows flow. A stone or a song churns in the mind when the leaves ride
out to sea with the stars.
She will stand here
as I am at the edge
of the sea as you did,
watching the waves spread out.
A migratory bird drums up
from the swells, wings
pulsing. Giver of October
rain, your heart carries
cyclones. You dance,
and the storm follows.
Thunder in the sea’s song, your words.
The pigeon’s dirge plays over
wind and rock, recalling
how mist pearled
off the lake by the barn
in the predawn chill.
Through the trees, a window
of light opens to swirling discs
of color, a mural through which
I enter her lost farm. Curated paint:
blue for the lake and gold for
the grass. The long gone willow
slumps toward the farmhouse.
You cover the wall with color,
and the storm follows you.
The birds rocket
over the shore. Women
dance in the sand. Leaves
spiral away. The heart drums.
Ghosts ebb and flow with the tides. Translucent jellyfish and the silence we carry. The sea breathes heavy. You leap toward the salt-brushed air, and the storm follows you.
Sun dazzles the water. The waves redden,
recalling the barn on a fall morning.
Birds dissolve into rocks,
and the rocks fade with the tide.
The sea evaporates and shrouds the hills,
becoming rain that blankets the dancers.
Until light washes across the sea, the women.
A wet sleeve wipes fog from the window.
A woman in a gold dress walks
toward the willow and the barn.
Her dress flings light over the strawberry fields
and the rocks that carry the bones
of past seas in their pores. She runs,
and the storm follows.
The trees bend with salt and age.
Light phantoms the sea.
We dance, and the storm follows.
I listen to the waves. Fish leap from the water. The leaves are pages of captured light. They fly across the sea with October rain, emptying the branches
In memory of Professor Susan Williams, ocean conservationist
The sea unmakes
itself in you—
each neat blue curl
You walk across sharp rocks,
in your eyes. Green anemones
unfurl around you.
Each tidepool reflects you
watching moon snails. Frilled tunicates
bows to quiet after the loon dives to remember the shape of your presence.
Rebecca Nelson is a PhD candidate in the Graduate Group in Ecology at University of California Davis. She graduated from Stanford University with a BS in Biology, a Minor in Creative Writing, and a Notation in Science Communication. Her writing has previously appeared in Moon Magazine, EcoTheo Review, and Anthroposphere. Her first collection of poems, Walking the Arroyo is available on Kindle. You can contact Rebecca at firstname.lastname@example.org.