i build stairs from earth and coat them in earth

slipping a short knife in the long way, between
muscled foot and iridescent shell, a raven hollers
at me. working the knife
against the rough silk of shell’s belly, abalone leaping
free, my heart wonders
if my body and its actions are being
scolded. i feel the bruise
of death, the abalone suctioning to my aging
hands, in the finality of its last grip. it
stiffens as life vacates its small,
odd body. my heart
stiffens against the admonishment
of raven, this spirit bird
of a land on which i am
interloper. my pale skin in the brine
of ocean, hands stiffening in their dispiriting
age. a homeless abalone
weakly suctioned to my tearful hand,
salt-slick in the tide’s brief low. and i
in the fatigue of low’s persistence. all around
me the evidence of our cyclical nature, even i
was once a regular cyclist, now stagnant
in the tide pools of slow moving moods.
the raven caws again before dancing
from spruce bough into flight, it floods past
me without pause or concern.
the abalone has ceased moving, i rinse
it in the tide’s slow rise, and remove myself
from the center of my own universe.
raven does not think poorly of me, unless
i am raven. abalone does not find my hand
any more interesting than seaweed and rock,
though maybe i am abalone. tide has no desire
to drown me nor deliver me to brief
safety of shoreline, and yet i too am
ocean. we needn’t, none of us, invent
the finality of our edges. we are grown
from that which surrounds us, and will
all without shame return
to each other.

Published by Zak

an intertidal island in an ocean of impermanence.

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