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Hummingbird Press
Poets of the Monterey Bay

Four Poems by Debra Spencer


From our tar-roofed classrooms
in the heat of June,
weighed down with boredom,
we watch seagulls

swoop and bank above the field.

We are weary of schoolwork,
of cafeteria meatloaf,
games on hot asphalt, bananas.
The land presses in on us.

We yearn to lick Creamsicles,
to dip our toes in the sea!

The gulls hover above the handball courts,
the tetherball poles.
From our open windows
we hear their cries,

we see them dive for food
among the lunch benches.

What makes them leave the sea?
Why come to our valley?
Do they love flying so much
that they wake at the shore and say

Let us make the long trip inland
where we will feast on meatloaf
and the delicate black skins of bananas—

where we will watch the children in their cages
as they long for the sea!



Invisible tides pull things to the sea,
the great rolling drum that wears all into sand.
A sandal, for instance, lost in the river,
dark glasses that fall in the rain-swollen creek—
both pulled by invisible tides to the sea.

The family portrait that sailed on a ship
from Bremerhaven, the chest of drawers
that rounded the Horn and was brought ashore
near the Golden Gate—both flotsam parts
of houses built on future sand
out of things passed lovingly hand to hand
by invisible tides that pull things to the sea.

Those hands that knitted aboard the ship
from Denmark, those hands of father and sons
who sailed from Dublin to slip their bonds
were drawn to new cities built on the strand
of a continent far from old worn land
by invisible tides pulling things to the sea,
that great rolling drum wearing all into sand.

Oprah Endorses the Ocean

Gazing steadily into the camera, she speaks from the heart.  “The waves,” she says, “are cleansing.  The sand is a comfort.  And then, the sky!”  Oprah advocates excursions to the beach.  She devotes a series of shows to discussions of which beach is best.  Coney Island?  Malibu? West Palm?  All week, expert panels engage in debate, with Oprah’s studio audience chiming in.  Slowly, the middle of the country empties, as Americans abandon the heartland for the coasts.  Department stores report a shortage of bathing suits.

Oprah and her crew embark on visits to major aquariums.  America learns to recognize the lantern fish, the deadly sea wasp, and a series of eerie jellies.  Oprah visits an artist who turns sand into glass.  Oprah tells her audience, “You see me through lenses that used to be sand.”  This makes her feel even more deeply connected to the ocean.

In California, a hundred thousand people arrive at Castle Beach with ice chests, barbecues, sand chairs, giant umbrellas, charcoal briquettes, hot dogs, and sunscreen.  Panicked officials call in the National Guard.  From East Cliff Drive, news cameras from major networks pan the overflowing trash cans.

Broadcasting now from her mansion in Montecito, Oprah concludes her endorsement of the ocean.  She loves its repetition, its unpredictability, its viciousness, its sublime caress.  “The sea is a precious resource,” she tells her viewers.  “It is the key to life on this planet.”  She says that visiting the ocean is fundamental to the health of all human beings.  “The beach will heal us,” she tells us.  “It’s a good place to be alone.”

A Local Habitation
        William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, V.i

In my ears
is a ghostly ringing
only I can hear.
I have heard flowers speak.
I have felt the air
part in front of me,
have reached out my phantom hand
and touched living rock,
touched it and felt it breathe
like the flank of a huge beast.

Physicists tell us other worlds exist,
that each choice leads to another earth.
Artists say there is a world
within the world. Theologians
talk of eternity, death as another life.

We come from wet into light.
If we sense another world
it’s by trusting beyond sense.
If we close our eyes we may perceive

an alternate vastness, may discern it
the way you can hear the size
of the dark barn you stand in
on a rainy night.

Copyright 2013