NIGHT WATCH

1

between sunset and sunrise
the ocean returns to desolate obsidian

of her dark depths
in the character

at best, stars above
strand of shoreline, depending

maybe the moon
with her sea-legs

or repeated slapping

2

breakers arrive as a single point of reflected white
opening out evenly in a line on either side

a lip, sometimes to one side only
rarely claiming, “I love you”

sheets of gleaming water shift on the sand
or everything way out, obscured
in fog

scolding
pipers scurry about
on their stilt-legs

at highest tide, pebbles sound of boiling

with all the sunburned drunks long asleep
or the party, behind glass or on the deck
a cigarette meanders somewhere to my left
though I catch no shards of conversation

3

if only the beach were not broken
by rocky fingers and cliffs

unseen ledges and outcroppings

or overwhelmed in abrupt tempests

the night voyageur might sail dependably
by the compass

but vessels and their crews
mostly go down along coastline
blindly

mistranslating, the whole sense stymied
by a single word, a puzzle, upturned wind

4

count the seconds, then, in the flashing
points
matched to the chart

one red-lighted buoy
white caps below

Whaleback just clearing the hilltop

a large, well-lighted ship near the Shoals
waiting for high tide to enter Portsmouth

or on a very clear night, way off
Thacher Island, Cape Ann, Gloucester

how is it the Boon flare jumps about
three spots, playing the length of shrouded rock island?

of the available beacons
the closest, curiously, appears only a muffle

in the call of the underside
“come to me”

mournful bell or horn
and strobe light

restless, relentless
rhythm, however unpredictable
retreats, advances
restores, destroys
cleanses

5

I cannot imagine rowing ten miles to an island
at midnight

after an evening in town

but they did
for a drink or conversation
so they said

Poem copyright 2016 by Jnana Hodson
To see the full set of seacoast poems,
click here.

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