This poem is about the transfiguring power of the sea and the experience of being in harmony with it.
Barnegat inlet is a gauntlet
In the sea, where waves break on sand
Bars that pen a baby, an unquiet
Place, lethal when easterlies stand
The long swells up to lumber
White capped across the shoals
And crumble in a khaki welter
Of seaweed, mud and spray that rolls
West through the cleft Atlantic coast.
Chartermen say little on the docks
At dawn standing by for parties,
For mates to ready boats – pull chocks,
Dog ports and stow necessities,
Bait, ice and beer – for copper gleam
To port ahead, gulls working gore
From sand eel shoals the stripers glean,
Or terns on blue fins hours offshore,
The world shrunk to a compass rose.
After noon the wind comes up, skippers
Go topside, shout Reel in! and head
For home; crews gut the catch, scuppers
Clog with viscera, decks turn red
Till seawater sluices them teak
Again and sunburned weekend
Warriors, beers wedged, peaked,
Doze and in day-dreams pretend
They're heroes home from the sea.
Lines secured, the anglers leave
For row homes, showers, bowling club:
But by slips boatmen remain, reeve
Rod guides, observe the weather, rub
Penetrant on rusted pliers
And pause – to watch sedge sway on flats,
Geese rise honking from wetland choirs,
The sun decline, a whirl of gnats
And the Light flick on at Barnegat.
from We Look Like This (Carcanet, 2012), ? Dan Burt, used by permission of the author and the publisher