It turns around itself, the sea,
and the years are me,
and yes, I am kelp:
a gasp of fingers, maybe,
but never past the buoy,
where the tide is always,
the gulls stop laughing,
and drowning men
don’t bother to cry for help.
Days pass like an osprey
with a mind of foam
and a perfect angle
to solve each wave for fish,
though perhaps the days go hungry
and he doesn’t even know
what a hypotenuse is.
The light is so undead
that it don’t have wrists,
so let us pass this hour
without talk of teenage pacts,
those non-binding ceremonies
that made us intend
to always stay up late
and forever remain sacrilegious.
The moon washes up logs
the size of whales
and then it bleaches them,
bones in a reproduction
of the what it is
we’ll never know
where those hours went.
The gale broke between them
so that is where we hid,
some drunk larvae
twisted full of bourbon
in the dirty sleeping bags
of a fucked ecosystem.
Here’s the thing, Ashton:
you don’t need a camera
to know that we were ugly;
don’t need to own our measurements
to imagine how often
we held our stomachs in.
The tide retreats,
leaving the beach half wrapped
in brown-green seaweed,
the antique bandages
of an extremely dead king.
What we were thinking
is completely immaterial
compared to the gravity
of what we did,
desecrating the nightly burial
of shattered bottles
by throwing them back
to the calling wings
of the wounded animal
licking at our feet.
It fell like a disease
we wore softly,
that cloud-lit feeling
the sky kept hollering,
an orangish-yellow of great exaltation
breaking down our livers
like required starfish
in the radiant tide-pools
of our startled bodies.
When the cop grabbed me,
I kept on running,
and that is still
one of my best accomplishments.
I thought I was a gull
for about five minutes,
lungless and triumphant
to have sped so fast
beyond the trembled guns,
a thunderous jubilation
propelling me sudden
past my native caution
to an empty pay-phone
where otters slept,
a dozen pseudonyms
strung plausibly
across the emptiness.
I guess I must be an optimist
if I choose to believe
that the statute of limitations
applies to everything,
that bones forgive us
when we don’t remember
what was over them,
and that where we climb
to trace our initials,
there once stood mountains.
I came back from the East
with cardinals in my eyes
and feed in my hand
just like those who started
this earnest ruination.
Now I’m on my knees,
digging through beach glass
in search of fragments:
the fires we left burning,
where we threw our cans
as if cooking potatoes
was one way of praising them.
I can feel a minor incandescence,
my torso crumpling
when remembered flames
do their best to confound me,
mapping as they do
the process by which
hours divide waste and heat.
What does it mean
to let the past inside my body
beneath a furious night
that has no fortune
and does not haunt me?
Perhaps I’m the one
here to do the haunting,
if that is what it is
to spend entire weeks apologizing
for what happened
some gone time ago,
clad in the luminous skin
I keep wearing like a sheet,
this circumstantial hubris
accompanying the water
that composes the majority
of corporate me.
When we meet again,
you will know me by my injury,
if that’s what age is,
the way time inflicts a body
around the mind
and then adds a little shame
and puts it at the beach.
When I stare down barnacles,
I feel I am a barnacle,
and suddenly I get angry,
because like a barnacle,
I know I’m bound
to something larger:
a world that curves
from its own perception;
a wind of crimson beaks
casting obscene fates
out between the everywhere.
I have been touched
by something that diminishes me,
and I feel okay about it.
Now I am to scale
when compared to mountains,
which is some relief
I’d rather feel than say.
In the fading spirit-light
of what I know about whales,
I say hey whales,
come and help me maintain
the many ways of breaking
the beach is made of.
I say let’s fall asleep
and let our dreams
ambush the future
where it stays hidden in them,
trade our skin for light
the way whalers did
when they caught the distance
and started bleeding it
like a horrid divination.
Come morning,
we will cast our lines
without thinking what a spell
just waiting is,
and all the yachts will slow
in the slow canal
where all the poems end.
This is as close as I can get
to a small, immortal feeling, Chief,
languaged past the actual
and then back
across the fragrant mist
I have been dreaming in,
a bent peninsula
of expensive second homes
who appraise the distance
by waiting in it,
as if waiting were indicative
of what a value is.
A satisfied, upright people
gather at the clambake,
and I am one of them.
I go pasty in the sunken day,
rural in the ceremony
of wild forgetting.
The weather changes,
mist translating ghosts
into something damp
and strangely breathable.
In this land of moss,
beneath this flag of gray,
settlers carved your name
to old-growth,
nailed up a proclamation
that called you friend to them.
It is so easy
not to articulate
what remains underneath the image.
Eelgrass, for one thing,
but also sedimentary wreckage,
the nights we spend
with our own dead
before we even know
which of us will be them.
The clouds are hieroglyphs,
the day, an excavation.
I pick up a rock,
and the crabs scurry away
like poorly rehearsed shadows
from what cover
it had previously delivered them.
I throw it in the ocean,
where the waves toast something
in the medieval tradition
of making sure
that any poison
washes into every cup.
Above me, there are eagles,
whose shadows carve eagles
across the drifted logs
like a shouted language,
unmistakably literal
in the depiction 
of where they’ve been
but then quickly disappearing
within the eaglelessness
that follows them.
I’m sorry, friends,
but I can feel the distance
deep within me
like a coupon
for something already spent,
and I know it’s real,
that what’s been thrown
to the dumbstruck waters
will not come back
unless I imagine it.
First, I have to say something,
then I have to trace it out
large enough for the stars
to say my curse
where they pass above me.
There they go,
and now I’m getting smaller.
Late at night,
where only sound remains
to mark where souls
pass through darkness,
we used to get so loud
I swear we must have thought
the emptiness was
genuinely empty,
that all the sleeping people
had been released
into the recognizance
of their own dreams,
sinking fast and slightly drooling
past the cowls of our fires.
In the now that is always
at least a lifetime later,
depending on who died
and how much they mattered,
I have not lost much,
and am thus not prepared
to lose much anything,
so I came back here
to try to understand
how to lose everything
where the waves keep trying
to jump the land,
inching their shivered forms
as if compelled by the moon
to invade the sand
just a little farther.
My main accomplishment
is that right now
I am here forever,
hungry beneath the changing light,
midwife to a foul day
that lowers its clouds
so that I might concentrate
on the sleepless distance
between where I am
and who I’ll be
when I hold my daughter.
I raise up high my badge.
I deputize the rain
to fingerprint this water.