Sea and the Pine

When I was a child, the Pacific lifted drifting logs of cedar and pine
up onto the beaches where we played. My sister and I
pushed one old tree back into the swell and rode it
like a pony, like a see-saw, like a life raft.
We kicked our legs and squealed at each touch of seaweed.

At nineteen, I drove the coast to Oregon and sat alone on the dunes,
watched the sea and the sky devise a simple blue line,
Clouds broke and recombined. Gulls hung between wind currents,
still as figures in the pages of a book. I walked the foam line
of the surf, watched footprints disappear from the ancient sand.

This morning, the tide flowed out of Lunenburg harbour. All day
tourists shot the view through postcard screens:
sailboats—still as trees—and freshly painted wooden houses.
I wandered, listening to their small talk, until the pale rocks darkened
by the hand of the moon in yet another baptism.

Now, it is dusk. My husband and I carry the boat down
and begin to row into the Northwest Arm. We pass through shallows
at the point of K’jipuktuk. I brace my legs against the bow
he braces against my body, working the oars. We are small, delicate fools
on a slip of reflection over deepening shades of dark.

We look back to see where we’ve come from: a row of port cranes glow
wild orange under sodium lights, rows of shipping freighters,
fishing boats and shiny white yachts. I close my eyes, see driftwood,
rows of fish drying in the wind, cooking fires rising tall in the calm,
a row of birch canoes, rows of birch, pine and cedar. Row upon row.

Row, Michael, row ashore. Hallelujah! and god help us. The sea begins to rise.
We bow our heads and bless the right whales dead on St. Lawrence’s watch.
Tomorrow, penitents will flood the dory builder’s shop saying, teach us
how to float. But he knows it is the pine that floats, swollen with sea,
not the human body, which is already full of water and can take no more.