The Marjorie E. Peale Memorial Prize
Kneeling brings me closer
to the scent of cut
bait and salt
and the mud flat black on my fingers.
I look up to watch the silhouette of a friend.
He has given his color to the setting sun.
Hip-deep in the rising tide,
shoulder-deep in the golden-green reeds
that billow from the shoreline like an effervescence,
stealthy and dangerous-looking,
he casts the arc of his barbed filament
and gazes with the steady vision of a predator.
It’s the movement of life,
oat grass bowing in the evening breeze,
drift of shore birds calling across the bay,
leathery flap and plunge of a pelican.
Life swirling beneath the burnished waters,
life that troubles the surface,
life that skims the pastel sky,
life the size of a particle
visible only in the aggregate,
shiny green ribbons of slime
layered in the muck,
life that crawls,
life that clings,
life that swarms.
latent, like an alligator’s
congealed shape baked into the mud
of the creek bank on which it gathers
the last of the afternoon sun.
Sparkling reeds to muddy bristles.
Life churns out its endless chorus,
a million deaths, a billion births.
Colors of fire to color of ash.
It’s the mosaic of all colors,
blending into one universal tone.