In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Swale, and: Ghost Forest, and: "I Have Written Myself into a Tropical Glow", and: Scurvy, and: You Like to Think the Whales Are Listening
  • Allison Hutchcraft (bio)


In my winter by the sea, I fashioneda new habit:

each day walking to Crowley Creek through mudand leafless alder, their branches

cupped by the plush green of mosses and rollingbeds of sword fern, whose serrated

edges thrust extravagantly into cold and humid air.The creek fed the estuary,

which in turn fed the sea—and I liked to see how far upthe tide had reached,

or how far it had receded, the marshy banks transformedby that lunar clockwork

on which my hours turned.Water called slack, like the grip on a rope

loosened, at which point the river would swelland still, the brackish tide

having expanded the limits of the creek, submergedgrasses swaying like the drowned

hair of a doll. Cold and hard and clear,the water looked like the creek I felt in me. [End Page 29]

Day after day I watched gulls float like wooden toys,rocking on the unsteady surface,

and studied barnacles clasped to rocks, theshell-white skeletons

of small shoreline animals, discarded limbsof driftwood.

Swale also meaning a depression, a low placein the land,

the sour smell once the water has drawn back,unmasking river sludge

and battered sea debris:luminous blue Velella

with their fan-like sails, hollow carapaces of crabs,picked at and cleaned—

When I swale, I cannottell border from border, land

from water. I feel the loamof day

crumble. Washed up, what's left?An accumulation of silt. Or sand, sifted,

rubbery tendrils of seaweed dotted with notcheslike taste buds inflamed—

Sometimes I think love is swale, andsometimes sadness, how each

comes in like a tide, how eachalters the bodies beneath. [End Page 30]

Heart, be complete, come out of your grave-light—It was decades before I was alive

when the estuary was diked to make moreland for pasture, the water

no longer water then but fields of sown grassesfor the cows to eat. How they, too,

must have tasted it—the memory of waterburied in the new green shoots,

the verdant nourishment, still tasting, faintly,of brine. [End Page 31]

Ghost Forest

As if resurrected, the trees    have returned: what's leftof their once buried trunks now    jagging through beach sand.

We go at low tide so we    can see them,and it is easy to walk to those farthest    up shore, to peer

into their hollows made by wind    and by water, followingthe ancient rings, the swollen    wood, dark and soft,

something to flake with a tool    or fingernail.In all the available spaces,    blue-gray stones,

the surprising white    of shattered shells,as if someone had lodged    them there deliberately.

Delicate, bone-like, barnacles    encase trunk after trunk,each exoskeleton as small as a stud    earring and open at the top,

like an erupted volcano or    extracted molar.Farther north, in the outskirts    of Alaska's archipelagos, [End Page 32]

if the earth ruptures    we will feel it. The seawill swell with tsunami waves,    covering roads and towns,

breaking apart the shore    as two thousand years agothese spruce broke    from high cliff shelves.

And when they were buried it was    instantly—flanks of land collapsing, swallowed,    and the animals, too,

their pelty sinking.    Called ghost, but lookhow what's left stubbornly remains,    not ghost at all but

solid, stunted branches, radial    and smooth,the polished wood now green    with a fine algae

or limp strands of seaweed,    which, when the tide returns, will riselike candles taking flame.    Look closer:

there is always something ready    to bury us.Slabs of damp sand break off    into the creek

that cuts this beach in two—    in the Arctic, whole glaciersfracture this way, the oceans    everywhere rising. [End Page 33]

A woman wades across    the silty creek, carryingher small dog in the cleft    of her jacket—

her legs more and more    submerged,nearly up to her hips now—    the look on her face— [End Page 34...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 29-38
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.