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Don't Ask Why




Ode to the Hapless Croaker


Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?

declare, if thou hast understanding.

—Job 38:4


43 years or eons upon eons later—

3 cottages across the sandy road, first listing

then collapsing into the ocean, have left

this old beachbox ocean front, a long way

from 1979 when we’d trek through saltmeadow

cordgrass, pennywort, firewheel, prickly pear,

over the pebbly park service road, trudging

up tall dunes, waving sea oats, racing over

blistering hot sand to dive headlong

into the cool surf—


I can offer up some pretty reliable science

about why the ocean is rising. even trace

the recent history of hurricanes, nor’easters

battering this disappearing coast,

but at the end of day, sun setting across

Pamlico Sound, the moon a floodlight

on the sea, there is no logic, no psychology,

no philosophy, no religion that alone dives

deep enough through unseen ocean currents

to burrow into darkest earth beneath us all

to explain why anything happens, least of all


the hapless croaker caught off the pier last night,

flopping around on the blood stained deck,

one unblinking eye staring up toward endless

starry sky as I mumble a wordless elegy under

my breath, unable to divine why God or god

or the force that laid the foundations of earth

spares one fish a hook in the bloodied mouth

but not another, or chooses, if chooses is the right

word, beach cottages to tilt off their pilings and

tumble headlong into the cool ocean

rolling rolling ever closer this way.


—SL, Rodanthe, NC, August 2022

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