Santa Cruz Island
First water and salt scud tailing twenty yards off
A receding tide. Or stones first, the tide’s
Measure and break. Or the word seal, for instance,
This dead one’s skin slicker brined hard
And cracked. Cell. Follicle. Division
And increase. Wind first. Or absence. First,
We’re not sure. Then upright walking.
Another seal. And another. The skull bones’
Arcs model fathoming pressures, quick
Soundings, still quicker born near the limits
Of light divinations of fish. There crevice
And craving. Crabs picking sour harp strings
Of flesh. All of this firsting. Curlews and kelp.
Pelicans. Eels and wrens. Vowels and consonants
First to inspect this diesel engine’s lexicon
Of rust and stone-hammered dents. God
Of a hull once bearing a diesel—steel mounts
And monumental bolts— Who cast the dies?
Where is the hull now? Who joined and who
Caulked the planks? Where are the name-boards,
Keelson, bow post? What became of the wood?
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.