Coastscape and Mr. Begley

From: Edge Effect

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Coastscape and Mr. Beaky One eighth of an inch across one petal of the yellow field. Or each with a green strap narrower than a hospital bracelet, sedges raise the height of a marsh. The entire estuary could leak drop by drop through cupped hands, egret's beak, or a shed's mossy roof asrain. Beyond, grain by grain, subjewelry, the sand rock in note form. On the cliff top, thrift: "dense terminal head on naked stalk." Or "naked foot stalking" the sea's chamber? And poppies: "But colorless. Colorless"—? No, carotid, perilous, couldn't be less like business. Jag by jag the poison hemlock's leaves. Then bulrushes' readjustments as nested redwings scare. A blackbird is flying into a heron's tail— 46 Coastscape and Mr. Begley plucking and punching, it bides there for a second of a second, pulling a quill or, deeper, the hind-flesh, and the heron does not fly or swing around, but bears its eye lonelier, steps in a glide from shallows to shore to where the helm goose of aflock lowers its neck in a curl of rejection. And the million barbules of the Great Blue vanish into a summer fog of panicles, gold-green, gray-lavenderspikelets of tufted hairgrass, spreading lovegrass. Woman, this is the landscape all through which you have left your sight, your sight you dropped as a car came rushing toward you, your flawed mediums to which you paired binoculars; your wet living lenses trained above each nasturtium (close your eyes, 47 you get a morning glory), your sight with which you measured creek depth through dark glasses, your vision you broke to shoals of smashed cast-ups at the strandline. All through these floatings you have left your invisible seeing that counted seventy-four fishing boats, thirty-five brown pelicans, seventy kites on one string, sixty-five pocketed keepsakes from the sea. Your scanning is transported with the sand from beach to beach, deposited in an ocean canyon no one has ever seen, where in privacy you can hear the panoramic sounds break down: the lisping bubbles fly apart, pods chatter in the yellow lupine, the snake your foot tips off escape, the heron's silence— conscientious, exposed. Then you hear Mr. Begley'svoice, each little botanical correction. "I am a painter," he says. Certainly he has known the landscape T W O : T R A I L S 48 Coastscape and Mr. Begley by the eighth-inch. Skunkweed's pomander is caught on his fly-line. Socrates is dying in his umbelliferae. And everything immediate to him is small: Bees carry landscape on them, birds drop it from the air;filaree miniaturizes war; damselfly hovers gratified as a needle over a new seam or a tearing about to mend. Little pimpernel hotspots, hatched and housecleaned cliff swallows' eggs bloodsplattered as a man's bad shave, dunegrasses' half-circle sweeps sanding awaywoodgrain of homes. Antique ink on butterflies. "Because I paint," Mr. Begleysaid. Good for him I have no excuse for looking. 49 ...


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