Low Tide at Squalicum


Dayna Patterson

Ripe blackberries on thorny bushes skirt
the path we take to Squalicum Harbor.
My daughter gathers purple shells
as if she were a hungry seagull
and these sharp crusts could feed her.
Then she scavenges for a drawing stick,

and when she manages to break it, sticks
broken bits in sand, back of her skirt
draggling in mud; she uses her
finger as stylus, tracing M O M. In the harbor,
a rust orange ship offers a seagull
rest, but she resists. She is hunting shells,

too. Crab, mollusk burrowed, oyster shelled
under sand and seaweed, unearthed by stick
or beak. She finds one, and gull
floats up effortless into cold sky, skirts
clouds until, below, rocky harbor
whispers now, and she releases her

load. Will there be enough to feed her
young and herself after she picks off the shell’s
fragments, a mouthful of meat? Does she harbor
any regret? Or will she gently stick
her beak down their gullets, skirt
the edge of the nest while her baby gulls

feed? I realize it’s just a seagull,
and this bay belongs to her
and the sky is her skirt
and instead of jewels, she holds seashells,
and a house of sand and sticks.
This is her harbor.

Oh, but it’s also our harbor,
as long as this lone Herring gull
will share. We’ll avoid sleeper waves, stick
close together, away from her nest, from her
sharp beak, and we’ll only take what’s broken, shells,
indigo and bone in the folds of a skirt.

My girl proudly spreads her sticky, laden skirt.
Not easily gulled, I say what marvelous shells.
Heading home, it’s my belief in her I harbor.