North Coast
by Devon Miller-Duggan

One of the women crouches at the edge of the cliff rolling
things with shells over the edge. Clams, birds’ eggs, turtles, peekytoe crabs,
moon snails, hermit crabs—all thrown at the forest’s feet by one wave after another
lifting, spitting out its detritus along with fury, or lace.
There is always rebellion or mystery bubbling in the spume,
the come-from-south, come-from-east castaways left to die along the edges.

Bodies-in-shells, food, gull-pecked, salt-killed,
she spills them over slagged shoreline become altar
for whatever body can separate from shell
writing itself, its supplications on the rocks below
until the next wave comes to daze their wishes—
to have bodies, prey, growth—
their prayers strike, strike, and drip and blur—
clouds and ink blurred into the ocean’s long story,
lightning-struck waves drinking in every blood-shade.

Woman finishes, clearing the cliff-ribbon of shells,
other women come from between trees, arms full of bayberry, of balsam,
of their infants, whose beds will be made of what is carried.
Ocean recedes to its moon-pulled bed.
For this night, though there will be weeping,
there will be bodies, unshelled, salt-blessed, sweet-scented.
There will be bodies kept, fed
instead of fed-to. Crouching woman
has cleared the sister-path,
and has made of the wave-wracked creatures
enough libation.
Crouching woman has made the path safe
and the also-salt-and-water flesh of
sisters and those they bear.
She has paid home.

 

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 22, Issue 4.

Devon Miller-Duggan’s books include Pinning the Bird to the Wall (Tres Chicas Books, 2008), Alphabet Year, (Wipf & Stock, 2017), The Slow Salute, (Lithic Press Chapbook Competition Winner, 2018). She’s won an Academy of American Poets Prize, a fellowship from the Delaware Division of the Arts, and an editor’s prize in Margie. She teaches at the University of Delaware.

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