Lines written at the tidal mudflat, Milbridge, Maine

In this wine-water, tiny translucent creatures squinch up,
then go long. Seems that’s how they get where they go,

with slight compressions and expansions of being.
Around their pool, the granite’s dry. I lie on my belly, waiting

for the tide to lift the grass by the mudflat, hide the rocks,
touch my hands. Waiting for the sun to slide away.

My view says the stars slide, but they’re still: I spin.
The rocks I walked on as a child seem smaller now,

but this body’s grown. My mind seems to choose, but other minds
and forces guide my choice. The grass by these flats

combed out fiddler crabs riding the tide, and held them
above the flow when the tide shivered away. The seed heads

kept the crabs from sliding off and swimming back to sea.
The crabs have all dried up and died.

In time, the tide will come back in. Too late.
But maybe the crabs’ story is not about separation and missed chances.

Maybe the crabs have been always a small part of the ocean, squinched up,
gone long. The best way for me to find some stars

is not by looking directly at where they should be in the sky,
but by looking elsewhere, at a spot of dark sky, my gaze averted.

That’s how I seem to get where I go, or just how I go at all:
squinched up, then gone long, at off-angles, where I can’t see the stars.

K. A. Hays is the author of four full-length poetry collections published by the Carnegie Mellon Poetry Series: Anthropocene Lullaby (2022); Windthrow (2017); Early Creatures, Native Gods (2012), and Dear Apocalypse (2009), poems from which have appeared in Best American Poetry, Best New Poets, and many magazines, including Southern Review, American Poetry Review, Tin House, and Gray’s Sporting Journal. Hays studied literature at Bucknell and Oxford universities, and earned an M.F.A. in the Literary Arts (fiction) from Brown University, and teaches in the Creative Writing Program at Bucknell.