Gary Snyder


Floating in a tiny boat
lightly on the water, rock with every ripple,

another skin that slides along the water
hung by sea and sky

green mountains turn to clouds
and slip slow by

two-mile saltwater channel
sucks and coils with the tide,

kayak like a cricket husk—
          like an empty spider egg case,
like dried kelp fronds,
like a dry cast skin of a snake,
like froth on the lip of a wave,

trembles on the membrane,
paddling forward, paddling backward,

crossing at an angle to the
roiling shallow bars

the mountain slides, the moon slides,
the waters froth together,
the near bank races onward,

twin kayak paddles turn and glint like wings
casting spume,
there is no place we are
but maybe here

sky and water stitched together
with the oystercatchers screaming steady flight
the kittiwakes deliberate beat of wing
the murres bob up from underworlds
the seals heads dip back to it
the terns erratic dive and splash
the ravens tweet and croak and gurgle in the far-off
outflow alders

wind ripples westward, the tide goes east,
we paddle east-southeast,
the world a rush of wings and waters.

Up the slopes the mountain glacier
looses icemelt over gravel in a soft far roar
that joins the inlet-basin world of cries and waters

And all this realm was under ice fields ten miles long,
when my grandfather drove his team
to pick berries at Port Orchard

The glaciers shift and murmur like the tides
under the constant crosscurrent,
steady drum of bird wings
full of purpose, some direction,
all for what
in the stroke
in the swirl of the float.

We are two souls in one body,
two sets of wings, our paddles swing
where land meets water meets the sky,

where judges and speechmakers, actresses and carpenters,
drop their masks and go on as they were,
petrels, geese, oystercatchers, murrelets,

and small fish fry,

in the rich swirling sea,
floating in the weaving

of clouds, ice, tides, calls
—only to be here!

in the tiny skin boat.