Tern, tern, tern

The birds shrug off
the slant air,
they plunge into the sea
and vanish
under the glassy edges
of the water,

and then come back,
as white as snow,
shaking themselves,
shaking the little silver fish,
crying out
in their own language,
voices like rough bells–

it’s wonderful
and it happens whenever
the tide starts its gushing
journey back, every morning
or afternoon.

This is a poem
about death,
about the heart blanching
in its folds of shadows
because it knows
someday it will be
the fish and the wave
and no longer itself–
it will be those white wings,
flying in and out
of the darkness
but not knowing it–
this is a poem about loving
the world and everything in it:
the self, the perpetual muscle,
the passage in and out, the bristling
swing of the sea.

–The Terns by Mary Oliver from House of Light, 1990

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All Commons, I guess. The Leasts are just too quick to photograph in the air. They’re still feeding babies on my favorite sandbar at Horseshoe Cove on Sandy Hook, but today there were far fewer loafing around. Maybe it’s just that the tide was higher this time.

I’m collecting tern poems if anyone has any to share…

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