Poems from the Salt House

Path of Ghosts

Coyote tracks in the jeep trail this morning:
left there before dawn.
I can see where she followed the path
a mile or so, weaving from one wheel rut to the other,
veering off to nibble the rose hips, or sniff after mice.
There she was running, then walking,
the prints straight, and close together.
How coyotes arrived on the Cape:
“path followers,” they came down the highway,
jogged across the bridge,
like many another smart traveler,
crossing at night to avoid crowds.
So much we never see …
Highland Light scans the dunes all night,
sending its guardian beam over breaking waves
and miles of shadowed hills. Who’s out there?
Deer coyote owl skunk weasel hawk mouse gull fox.
A few shack people like me,
turning restless in our bunks
under the white flash
sweeping the window every thirty seconds.

Sea Glass

The wind blowing across the dunes
tosses up smallest grains of sand
that tick at the sides of the shack.
And windows take the scratch
of stone across their surfaces,
a thousand cuts baffling light.
The world makes us what we are
out of everything that happens.
When you stand inside a house
built next to the sea, there is sky
in every window, light and then dark.
In morning, whales
sprout and leap up
in the dark blue, choppy waters.
When you sit down to eat
there by the window, in that narrow room,
it is all before you. Never coming closer,
grinding and grinding its parts,
every movement undoing the last.
And that ticking—like the smallest
gold clock, like your father’s
pocket watch, like the heartbeat
of an insect before the first frost—
you hear it and do not think
how specks of the ground-up, cliff-washed
wind-borne world are flying toward you
like meteors, each cutting a thin trail
across your vision.

Excerpted from “Fire Muse: Poems from the Salt House,” by Cynthia Huntington, published by Dartmouth College Press.

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