voices from the cascadia bioregion

low tide

by diane tucker

low tide, and everything hidden
is now uncovered: the black weed, certainly
but also the upright fields of barnacles fighting
for space with the black mussels, these
gathered like a thousand shiny goat hooves
tied up and down the oily piles

the air is not their native habitat
in the breeze they clamp tight shut
nothing moist and pulsing
must be open to the sunlight

and we admire their defense, breathe
in sweetly their walls’ salt smell

when the tide lowers around our own
wet hearts there is no shield to slam
no doors we can clap closed around it
like the lid covers the glittering slick eyeball

no dreaming in briny bone-cells
for our washed up, low tide hearts

while the sun shines, they must lie
still in it, let their tissue-thin skin crack
and curl open, gasping in the open air

tides change
turn and return
barnacles and mussels, even the black
weed crunched in the sand, know
the tide will miss them and come back

our hearts, baking in their cracked-up
hides, lose all knowing, can breathe only
shallowly for reasons they cannot remember
trying not to lose what’s left of slippery life


“Low Tide” was first published in Bonsai Love, by Diane Tucker (Harbour Publishing, 2014, www.harbourpublishing.com) and is shared here with permission.


    the low hour of the afternoon

    by diane tucker


    It is the low hour of the afternoon,
    dear heart of love. The blood sugar plunges.
    The ears spill excess sound waves.
    Long hours of sitting finally crush the hips.
    Shadows tip over into blackness.
    Skyscrapers lie down along the sidewalks.

    How will we swim up through those shadows,
    dear heart of love? How will the black windows
    of the fallen day, shards strewn thick among us,
    let us pass without a gash?

    Slowly and without unnecessary words,
    we uncurl. We lace our fingers together
    as a bridge. We meditate on the phosphorescence
    of unbroken skin; the light of its smooth wholeness.

    Now the low hour of the afternoon
    brushes off its hindquarters and lumbers up the hill,
    a newborn night with bright, unclotted eyes, with
    pin-sharp kitten teeth that haven’t torn an hour’s flesh.

    We follow the night’s clouds of bone-white breath
    up toward the slow-emerging starlight. The day’s
    broken shadows are glossy puddles beneath us,
    as molten as mercury: silver, thin and slithering.

    But we have built a bridge to ford that river,
    a bridge of our laced fingers, and crossed over.


      november slough

      by diane tucker


      The meticulously tattered order of the dying world:

      Globes of white berries on their bending branch;
      yellow leaves all pointed at the earth: flames bowing.

      Alder cones rule the naked trees at last, packed
      brown laughter shaking limbs under cloudless blue.

      The slough, liquid gunmetal, shifts steadily
      under each mallard’s soft sliding spine.

      And every here and there a red leaf, each a fiery cry
      before a final falling. Everything is blown about,
      battered, except the very old trees, mossy columns.

      Sideways sun strikes violet on the mallards’ heads.

      Beyond the bridge: birches, every leaf still clinging,
      high hung treasure of king’s hoarded gold.


        blue melodica

        by diane tucker


        The wet-felt overcast air packed
        into the August afternoon is scattered,
        cooled by your melodica and your voice
        in old French song.

        The humidity gathers itself
        into raindrops and rushes to you.
        It throws you all its tiny silver coins.

        All the damp sweaty scurriers,
        tourists and shoppers, be damned.
        You are going to sing.

        Thank you for your blue-boxed breath,
        your thin paisley dress dripping
        bohemian beside designers’ doors.

        At the rushing hour of the afternoon
        you pull harried ears to the curb,
        bring into focus the waiting bench
        and the fresh tree. Your song’s
        momentum speeds us into stillness.


          vancouver dry-dock

          by diane tucker


          The gulls’ shadows, temporary crows,
          rush up the dock’s rust-stained sides,
          meeting their white-as-angel selves at its lip,
          all under the gaze of two yellow
          tyrannosaur cranes on their bee-striped feet.

          Some of the black bird-shapes are real crows
          and the rest are seagulls’ shadows, wider,
          their wings narrower and knife-shaped, gulls
          trying to paint themselves up the vast grey
          building’s side. But the image never sticks
          and they fly by again: living, rising brushes.

          The crows are smaller and smug in the distance,
          racing up and meeting their shadow-selves
          in the sky. But they can’t streak it either, great
          horizontal slab a block long, metal tunnel
          disgorging ships, wall of wind gathered and pressed
          flat and swung up perpendicular to the water.

          Into this both crows and gulls slam their shadows,
          scrape them up its sides, sweep them back down
          again, day after day of invisible avian ink making
          time itself the paint against the wall, a streaked
          and graven web of swift calligraphy.


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