© 2019 Helen: a literary magazine

Down Sagamore Hill

by Clara Burghelea

I stole an oyster shell
from the family beach.
I cut my finger into its edge
and smeared its mother of pearl.
Thought of throwing it
into the shallow water,
where this lonely Great Egret
looked me in the eye,
its disapproving beak
striking pebbles.
I figured I had earned it,
paid it by blood
and slipped it into my pocket.
One of my students
called himself an oyster monster
and he said back home, in China,
he could eat them raw, save the lemon,
slurp it down, never chew, yes, sir,
can I have more, no, sir, I don’t need
condiments just let me drink the juice
kind of thing. He then told me
he was hungry and a wild bird roast
would do. The Great Egret takes wing.
I smile and keep feeling
the edge of the shell in my pocket
thinking of you, Mr. President,
and how you would chase us
out of your property for having
wild, animal cravings.
But I do love the distant chirping
coming from the wood behind,
the little purple flowers
hidden among the twigs,
the shy blades of grass
and the sand inside my shoes.
Your red brick Old Orchard House
up the hill is filled with deer heads
and frogs, and salamanders,
and other little remainders
of your great appreciation
of the place and I believe in circles
and bodies being our own
and no, I don’t want to know
if you took any of them with you,
buried them in the fresh bay soil.
You took them into your heart
and later, people decided other people
could walk your land, and see your birds,
and get to taste your taste for the place.
I want to live into your ear for a moment
and be able to know these birds by feather,
the way they sang themselves
to their sisters and brothers.
I want to know how we teach sons
the ways of the forest, the smells of the pasture,
the sounds of the Eel Creek,
the tastes of the oysters
and feel less lonely for a second,
me and the egret
and the pebbles, and the student,
and the blood
on the shell that could have touched
a hand, a pair of lips, a puddle of water,
an eager mouth, a promise of the pearl,
a blink of time, a life. Myself.