Off-Season Beach Takeaway – Poetry by James McKee

Ohara Koson – Comorant

You’ve got to respect it, how at first the cormorants
pretend not to notice us,
each one perched atop
its pole, every dark-crested head now
swiveling
as we approach, until,
out of subtly tensing postures
and a rippling flock-wide flutter,
they vault as one into flight, skimming
over wind-crisped cobalt water,
west over the bay, east over the sea, away from nothing
but us—

And so what, if there’s only some mirage of a project
to stoop us down into our cool indigo shadows,
scrabbling for shells that quote the sun, gold-
flecked, gold-spritzed, gold-lacquer-
dipped, which,
chinkling for now in your pocket,
will be bundled home, short-, then long-listed, perused
the once,
then bottom-drawed, unthought-of, cracked, lost,
trashed—

No regrets either when, in return
for dawdling along the braid of tidewrack
two miles farther,
its fossil-white driftwood, pecked-over
crab carapaces and scribbles of kelp
not only in no way differ,
but cost us that much more late-afternoon sun
hard at our faces for the walk
back, now that we’re walking back, since there’s no other way
but back—

Because what’s left for us at last,
after retracing our paths
out onto the tidal flats,
and sloshing ahead some more
through the onward gush of the current,
then just wading on past
while the prints of people, birds, a dog,
blur under one swipe from a wavelet
after another,

is to acquire,
as a tempo fit for our own occurring,
this fluent local rhythm
of, for some time now,
nothing mattering.


About the Poet

James McKee enjoys failing in his dogged attempts to keep pace with the unrelenting cultural onslaught of late-imperial Gotham. His debut poetry collection, The Stargazers, came out in the spring of 2020, and his poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Ocotillo ReviewAcumenNew Ohio ReviewCutBank, The Raintown ReviewFlywaySaranac ReviewTHINKThe Midwest QuarterlyXavier Review, and elsewhere. He spends his free time, when not writing or reading, traveling less than he would like and brooding more than he can help.

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