By DIANE MEHTA
A sea-gap opens as surf crumbles
onto shifting sediment that pretends to be a beach
but has the bones of 13,000 years;
quartz blades and sea otter pelts, the fur-trade
driving settlements that would commence
the New World with its shipyards and apple orchards,
wheat fields newly immortal in the summer winds
erupting into lumber, salmon, smelters
for goldfields. Then come the wars
with accurate brutalities that spawn the local skill
of finding ways within the wind so aerodynamic
you’d think the jets would get to heaven first—
But I have found a shortcut on the beach,
a little ladder with infinite depth
from the moon that shimmers
on this cool night, crepuscular and orange,
to the plum-black ocean trenches
where only fang-tooths dare to wander.
Those sideways stairs cut into waves
are momentarily distinct before they splinter
into a million strobes of light
as if a million stars were reflected in them.
My old bones shiver.
I am strides away from 30,000 feet.
The stairs close in, the ocean ebbs,
they form again, forever scrambling into place.
A boat comes in, glinting with its sea-light
as if trying to tell us something spectacular.
They were never holy, these local stairs,
as much as knowledge-deepening,
sweetening the commerce, home, and love we toil for
here, before we climb to galaxies offshore
on these dissolving stairs that are no more.
Diane Mehta’s poetry collection, Morning of the Monsoon, comes out in 2019 from Four Way Books. She has been an editor at PEN America’s Glossolalia, Guernica, and A Public Space. Her poems are in The Literary Review, Prairie Schooner, Agni, Subtropics, Poetry, BOMB, Southern Review, Georgia Review, Gulf Coast, Sub- tropics, Witness, Slate, and Harvard Review. She is completing a historical novel set in 1946 Bombay.