Scan by scan, he returns to water, his glassy gaze sliding smooth as a wave. At puzzles of colors, he pauses, twisting a quick focus: black wings, white stripe,
a gold eye and more sheering in. He sucks a whistled breath through gray-shot hair, then aims half-eyed to finish, with a licked scratch, his list.
In darkness, he sees them still and eases back as the tide bellies full, both hands steering a white cup steady, firelight rowing slow wings across his drowsy eye:
flicker, flare and lap, the winter birds riddle the depth they share. When clouds mass and waves leave mudflats, rain ticks like shot. One springs into flight,
a speck against the gray, then gone. He tilts his glass to ground, half- sure as he settles. He waits on the sky for the news into which the clear eye stares.
— Originally published in A Mouthpiece of Thumbs (Blue Begonia Press, 2000)
Derek Sheffield’s forthcoming collection Not for Luck, which will be published by Michigan State University Press in 2021, was selected by Mark Doty for the 2019 Wheelbarrow Books Poetry Prize. Through the Second Skin, published by Orchises Press, was the runner-up for the Emily Dickinson First Book Award and finalist for the Washington State Book Award. He is a co-editor of Dear America: Letters of Hope, Habitat, Defiance, and Democracy(Trinity University Press, 2020). Derek lives with his family on the eastern slopes of the Cascades in Washington and is the poetry editor of Terrain.org. Catch up with him at DerekSheffield.com.