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.