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Beachcombing For God

the tide retreats

or the shore does;

one remains &

one departs the stage.

along the salty edge

of the world small

frantic birds dash

to water’s edge

skitter back from


kree-kree from

a killdeer or cousin,


poking the sand for

tiny unwary creatures

the waves


lost & found

lost & eaten.

later the tissue paper

husks of crab, shrimps

are blown

across the sand like snow

from this warm place

like ashes or

feathers or shed skin

of an imaginary



Bison At Sea

The foredeck is too hot to touch,

the only shade on this ketch

found under the mainsail.

We are easing toward Mexico &

California is still to starboard.

From offshore the live oaks

dotting the sunburnt meadows

look like a herd of buffalo.

I am uncertain that bison

ever shook the ground here.

Did they come over the last

chain of mountains, butt aside

the salt grass, the verbena &

saltbush to sniff at the sea?

Great black noses, what is that,

what is that noise? Did they

think the drum of waves was

another herd, another rush of

cows and calves?

I like to think that a squadron of them

stepped out into the waves, tasted the sea

& chose to go in. Go on. To raise horns,

nose to the light while seal keep pace.

Imagine the stories the fish could tell.

But the bison, buffalo, if they

trod the beaches then surely their

bones lie somewhere in the black

depths of lost history, somewhere

between giant sloth & the uncle

of Ishii. Gone, gone forever.

Closer now, I see the headland is

grazed  to domestication. Shadows

of vultures & hawk sweep.

The only mammals left standing are

coyotes, cows & voles.

Sometimes kids on

illegal motorbikes set the grass on fire.

The wind is falling.

Luff and fall away.

We point the boat’s nose

into the breeze for a sniff

before turning tail.

Good Morning Tuesday

Last night I dreamed of you.

No, I did not.

I slept the night of the just

and the tired.

But I could have dreamed,

dreamt of the way you

fold your arms around your knees,

of the way that the sun

touches your ankles.

Dreamt of sharing a table near

the lively fountain

in some other nation’s capitol.

Pigeons be damned.

Dreamt of conversation like music,

a distant Brahms, a hush before

that final score.

It is possible, possible.

I am not making this up.

It happened once.

We live in a house of indifference

a nest of inertia. We are unrelated,

an ugly cousin,

to who we were or who

we ought to be.

Triin Paja

Travis Stephens is a tugboat captain who resides with his family in California. A graduate of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, recent credits include Gyroscope Review, 2River, Gravitas, Raw Art Review, Crosswinds Poetry Journal, American Journal of Poetry, Sheila-na-gig, Sky Island Journal, and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature.