Journal of Writing & Environment

Sand Men For Quahogs



After the shadow-crumpled summer has settled

to stiff curls of wind,


the churn of melancholy

and more clothes on bone, I come upon men


squatting in soggy sand with angled pitchforks,

scraping through shallow water


as they’d undo a lover, through suck

and nick to some sort of marrow.


The sun needles with no particular advancement

And the men rake the shore.



Sand cut by metal releases.

Out by the dozens for hours without speaking, those men


in chunky boots, scan

the table of ocean, probing, unfolding


with long-handled tools,

steady and patient. I walk


hole to hole, want permission to see

what falls to the chapels


of pails from chipped tines,

what flutters from buried in froth and plucking?



Behind them, a wave has gone vertical,

then tenses to side-stretch,


its heart always pumping, its only purpose

to repeat its contractions.



The men keep wading

in what looks only like surface. I memorize


their advancing, the proper coordinates

for stripping the thigh


of the beach its benevolent treasures.

Spare or full moon, three days from invective storm.



The sun continues hoisting and falling

while men in waders unbury the shallows,


seeking keyholes. They crosshatch the sand,

drop their prizes with a shell-tang


to aluminum buckets. At home

that night, salt will flame


in their hands, they’ll say grace to fragrance:

clam pies and fritters


stuffed or dimpled with butter,

littlenecks, topnecks, cherrystones, chowders.