Rock River Poetry Contest selection

At Three Arch Cape

Oceanside, Oregon. 7 a.m.

Low tide and empty beach.

Even the mist incandesces below

Three Arches, their peaks

like primitive gods. A faint rainbow

forms around them perfectly

like a shrine. Last week’s measured life

with its compromises

like broken sand dollars, leaves.

On the great redwood’s limb

now bleached bone-gray, our initials: CS/ JS.

Who would guess a couple married

a quarter of a century, lapping

into the millennium? Still, today I walk alone,

head farther down my favorite inlet,

past the familiar shanties

and new condos rising: misguided

fortresses that trespass shifting dunes.

No matter what-—I still return,

and when I round the bend to Netarts Bay,

the entire village, old and new,

is fodder for the fog pierced only by pelicans.

High hum of wind and gull’s shriek.

Pelicans dipping. I have turned myself

into the pelican: a body large but porous,

shrewdest beak that eats and stores.

The poet’s mouth. Today this beach

with its shells and parables is my companion,

and you, drinking coffee, reading newspapers.

You’re earthbound. I’m tides and fog.

Only give me these dreamy mornings to keep.

Let me sit again on burnt driftwood,

my back against a dune, sing again the prayer

that ends with sanctus, sanctus.

The waves sizzle and stretch,

and I stretch too, arching upward,

arms open. Let the ferocious winds billow

under my big blue jacket, though I never quite

lift off. Who does? It is enough each year

to count myself among the lucky,

plucking perfect agates and holy ghost money

from sand, fill big pockets with grit.

And you in your blue stocking cap

and black leather jacket waving.

Christine Swanberg

Winner of the Hal Grutzmacher Award.

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