The Flu

A lone pelican dives into the sea,
clouds banking blue mountains, the horizon
that takes ocean down the farther slope.
Something in my lungs is the fingering
of evening tide. Ravens chatter on the beach,
palmetto trunks thrown from a wrongful
grave, miles of reeds a torn and opposite
ground that must be the tremble in my legs,
congestion the sigh and remnant of shore
crashing up the strand—gouging, deepening,
hungry in the chill taking that it gave.

Today, the red woolen hats of workmen,
fibrillating tools, my pulse erratic,
hand-size chunks of froth on gray littoral
the spew of illness. A sudden pod of
dolphins is wheeling in the shallows, their
dorsal speech cutting air, going under,
coming back. I try to breathe in turbid
union with the leavings of razor clams,
caved-in calcium sleeves, snails that spiral
entries to the left, the small auger’s horn
something to blow on, summoning plovers,

ring-billed gulls and the black-tufted terns that
flitter among the waves, sandpipers quick
in the sliding away of tidal pools.
Nothing so precise in my vague listening,
nothing so single minded as the whelk’s
egg-case sprawling on the sand its twisted
concatenation, something now clearing
behind my eyes, a lifting of inland
mist, something leaving my spleen while I shift
at water’s edge, sandpipers’ blurry legs
chasing an absence, the moon’s indrawn breath.

John Allman | Mudlark No. 31
Contents | Watching Weather