Readers Write: Translation

The Island Now

Swallows zoom in and out of little burrows high up
in the sand cliffs in the cool of morning. Early sunlight
filters through the trees down onto the beach,
where the waters of the sound roll in. Today all is gentle.

I stand near the water’s edge and look up,
amazed at the overhead waves of flight as elusive
as air, without even stirring breath. Seagulls rise and call
around me, you could hear their wings flapping away.

Farther down the shore there is a lot of erosion from the storm.
Here and there parts of the cliff collapsed, trees and mangled
property-line fences dangle along the edge of open sky.
People are looking and filling in their own assessment as I pass:
climate change or the work of an up and down natural cycle—
the ebb and flow a vast oeuvre. By the voices you can tell
they are committed to set narratives.

When I returned the nests are empty, small black eyes
like little windows looking out into the blue until evening
turns twilight, when the swallows will streak back.
Why wouldn’t they return, beyond the headlines, policies, trends,
this is their home, unburdened by iconic translation,
making them heirs to innocence.

The day is almost done and all I could think of
was however you sliced it, one day soon this part of the cliff
will be gone. This island is made of glacial till and outwash
left over from the last ice age that once continued
through the remnants of other islands to Cape Cod,
until the ocean broke through.

Below, the waves continue to curve toward shore,
one after another, immune to the lessons that hide in the shadows.
All of time has to do with arrival and vanishing.
My hopes always being something else.
In autumn how cold the night turns all at once.
I found myself shivering.

Stephen Cipot
Garden City Park

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