for Elise Partridge (1958–2015)
I have seen it a beaver-dammed
lukewarm dribble, but this summer the brook’s a river,
deep and cold, running steeped tea
and a skim of froth around lichened rocks,
roaring like an air conditioner.
Its white noise is enforced by oversized pines:
their branches albatross
from broom-closet dry to green ends shagged
with cones the colour of peanut skins
and flecked with crystals of sap.
A cindery sentry guards the top:
his ash beak clacking as he hunches
for takeoff, his wings branching
from a light crate core, eyelashing at the tips.
Timber creak in his phlegm-fat caw.
Down on the strand, big surf bangs,
lifting gulls from where they sit
like electric clothes irons. They leave
and webbed wavery wigwams.
A piece of driftwood perfectly catches
the boomerang of a swimmer’s arm.
Six-foot kelp bullwhips
have the trapped viscosity of poured motor oil
before they flare to lasagna at the tips.
Out where the ocean betrays
its breathing—closer in than the endless flat,
but farther out than the surf—a whiskery face
rides a swell and watches: time on the Nautilus
would bulk those milk bottle shoulders.
Drawn-tight hoodies small our faces
to beach stone ovals
on which our features perish.
Your message to us was simple:
look closely, and cherish.
By Patrick Warner, from Octopus (Biblioasis, 2016)
(Painting by Mats Gustafson).