At Low Tide

I was walking across the beach at low tide
that time of day when you can see the tidepools
I was young I don’t remember where or when
just marveling that I could walk for what seemed like a mile
through water up to my ankles
I was afraid of water
I never got the dolphins gypsy soul
panic always set in once my feet left the ground.

The people there were having a conversation
about a man who’d drowned his wife and tried
to make it look like an accident.
The cops didn’t buy it he’d gotten twenty years
and I didn’t know if a child was left behind
but I’d heard you could drown in as little as a glass of water
I looked out at the receded ocean and had my doubts
but not of its power that I could sincerely feel.

Four years ago at Christmas
I saw a blurb on page four of the newspaper
about an earthquake under the sea in Indonesia
that had killed about a hundred people
a story that grew with each passing day
to numbers inconcievable in the western world
about a Tsunami that swallowed everything in its path
miles inland and countries wide.

I saw the news and the videos
how the water receded miles out to sea
how the people were drawn out drawn as if from a well
there were children pointing it was rare to behold
walking out towards the moon eclipsing the sun
so far away and yet close enough to feel
until the rolling tide came in doubled
and those same exposed people ran screaming
for higher ground.

One landing higher
two landings higher and still
came the seawater streaming in a white boil
the screams of an old woman clinging to a rail
her husband reaching for her and then
her letting go and then it was his turn to disappear
and yet they kept filming made everyone a witness
to the pull at low tide to look into the abyss.

I live across a mountain range from the ocean
across the sound from it
my daughter can’t understand why at sixteen I still
walk alongside her when we go to the shore.
It’s a pity I’ve gotten all this respect for it
and not a bit of a dolphins soul
those pearls that were the sailors eyes can see
those places where I will not go.

At Low Tide

bill bell

Everett, United States

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