Up a salt-laced beach, where
ours were much the first human feet,
though imprints suggested there
were birds treading first
on that sandy sheet,

he turned to me and said
Creatures call this place the salt flats
’cause the salt gets thinly spread
right across these dunes,
like endless spice mats.

On those flats I could make
mosaics of things, of hard shell
bulbous in the water’s wake,
of seaweed and sticks
and white worms that dwell

in wet clay. He told me
to take a willow branch and trace
all that I thought I could see
in the endless sprawl
of negative space.

But I began to draw
those brittle shells and clumpy weeds
and he shook his head before
I could finish, made
me follow his lead.

And he sketched star-sized whales
diving through galaxies of mist
‘til only, through shrouds, their tails
rippled in the fog:
waves of amethyst.

He drew castles for gods
and a map that covered the sky.
He drew men fishing with rods
longer than if you
tried to write out pi.

I said I can’t draw that
when all I see is stretched on sand.
So for a while we both sat,
searching with eyes through
that deep distant land.

Do you see it yet? (No)
Do you see anything at all?
Shapes tangled in the air, though
nothing grand, nothing
to awe or enthrall.

He laughed, and walked away,
trailing my branch along that beach,
a line across the whole bay,
leaving at my feet
a paintbrush I’d reach.


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