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After the Tide Went Still

Updated: Apr 16

After the Tide Went Still

For my friend Sheila Collie Spencer, 1963-2023

I thought I was done writing

about grief, grateful for this bountiful

warm spring in the Low Country, good

place to sink my feet in the pluff mud

of sorrow without sorrow sinking

me altogether, writing and biking

through salt marshes of bereavement

unbereaved, that all too familiar, unfamiliar

respite found writing into shadows

on sunny afternoons, pedaling under

swaying Spanish moss, a confusion

of salty sweat dripping off my brow,

ready to write something to make me

laugh at myself, my assumptions about,

well, everything, already taking notes

for a breezy piece about strangers saying

I look like Larry David, all my kids snickering

at that laughable blow to my vanity when

the spinning earth suddenly clanked to a halt,

the sun trapped behind a cloud, tide stilled,

car stalled crossing the trail, a toddler’s

ice cream cone tilting in the gaping suspension

of what we know we know until I heard

the rusted gears groaning, the world squealing

back into orbit, but I was already somewhere else,

gulls cawing, bright sun making me squint, ice cream

splattering on concrete, the little girl wailing, all

behind me as I drop the bike in the grass and sit

under a live oak, chest rising, chest falling, nothing

but alive in the knowledge that whatever anguish

comes this way, there is no comfort, no explanation,

no platitude worth its salt now burning my eyes.

—SL, Port Royal, SC/Hatteras Island, NC, April 2023

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