by phillip e. burnham, jr., cambridge, ma


Low tide, the beach a tablet to record
Imprints of passage, those activities
Of passers-by on morning’s border of
Impressionable sand beside the sea.
Markings of traffic, runners and walkers,
Of horses, birds and dogs, of barefoot toes
Apparent proof of life, like words in chalk,
To vanish afterwords so none may know
What was written or who it came by.
The board, the beach washed clean, all evidence
Destroyed, removed from our curious eye,
Passing on, beyond any consequence,
But seen enough, and lost, to be aware
How brief the markings are of passage here.


Pacific waves a rhythm of long swells
Brought to collapse, to ripple in toward shore
Carried fragments of calciferous shell:
Razor clam, scallop, mussel, crab, a horde
Of sand dollars, halves, quarters, that could be
Sound basis of marine economy.
Driftwood’s small broken fragments of great trees,
Grayed smooth from restless voyage in the sea,
Strands of kelp, jelly fish – like giant eyes,
Sea glass smoothed along its tumble ride,
All scattered on the sand, exposed to dry,
Remnants stayed in line of high tides
Here small traces of other words revealed,
But what lies deeper still remains concealed.