On lunch hours I'd seek
in those linen banks of egret
a counterpoint to Hell.
Every time the F train rattled over marsh,
mute swans drifted in the pond
and cormorants rose above the Raunt,
circling rotted pilings for a landing.
And though I couldn't abide
its misbegotten boundary of phragmites
and fallen sparks in mud—
its omnivorous creatures skimming the far field—
it was a sanctuary years ago I wandered from.
I wanted to open with two women
walking through a field at first light
where bees sonicate flowers,
shaking their flight muscles
in a frequency similar to middle C,
a place you could see aquamarine
where there was only white
but in my mind I kept thinking Jamaica Bay.
So I waited in my new city and visited places never given their due,
the library parking lot where the snow this week mounds
over the drop-down view of a neighborhood, toothpick steeples
and weathered crosses, the old fire station tower in the distance.
And I stopped in the aisles of a market on a Saturday morning,
neighbors in conversation by the yogurt, by the sausage,
catching up while more snow buried their windshields,
barricading the byways where hexagons filled soft edges.
Each season the refuge turned.
It was never one thing but a compilation
of gardens, mudflats,
dunes that vanish and reappear.
Each year I found myself somewhere else
and came to treasure the buffeting of unexpected love.
I still ache remembering the bay on one side,
wind and light along the sandy trails,
but the hold of that oasis rests in me still
as when one dawn I saw two women walking
the salt marsh, turning horseshoe crabs right-side up,
placing them back in shallow water.