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Clade Song 5

Mary Oliver Yelled at Me on the Winter Beach

for Regie Cabico

I want to tell you that the ocean didn’t snarl
that the wind was not made of knives
that rising early I pledged my faith to the natural world
and its inspiration—that the beach was
lonely and full of artists, each in private
epiphany. But instead most of the houses
were second homes – and the artists were painting
pictures of seashells and horizons
as 100 mile hour winds blew through
the eaves, and fishermen fell asleep at sea
whistling us awake at night.

I want to say sunrise was a time of discovery,
of brilliance, awakening, a rush of pleasantries,
that every path led to encounter with
some charitable other, but it was winter.
I yelled into the wind and my voice
came back as cold wet slaps.

And yes the great poet did live on our block,
stringing together all manner of gentle thought.
We met her on the beach one morning, the dog and I.
He greedily running free, and she with yappy dog in tow
to say hello, no, she yelled at us for walking
without a leash—her little dog sneered and yipped,
My dog and I, we shrugged against the salt.

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Melissa Tuckey lives in Ithaca, New York, where she works as a head cook in an eco-village, editor, and writing instructor. She has a background in environmental justice activism and is a co-founder of Split This Rock, a national poetry organization dedicated to poetry of provocation and witness. She's author of two collections of poetry. Tenuous Chapel was selected by Charles Simic for the ABZ Press First Book Award. Rope as Witness, a chapbook was published by Pudding House Press. She's currently at work editing Ghost Fishing: An Eco- Justice Poetry Anthology, forthcoming with University of Georgia Press in 2016.  



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