Once a day the rocks, with little warning—
not much looked for even by the spruce 
and fir ever at attention above—
fetch up on these tidal flats and bars.
Large. crate-like rocks, wrapped in kelp; 
layer on imprinted layer,
umber to claret to olivegreen
of scalloped marbling. . . . 
Not far along the path of obstacles 
and stepping stones considered,
fluid skeins of bladder wrack 
lie tufted over the mussel shoals— 
the seabed black as a shag's neck, 
a half-acre coalfield, but alive. 
Recklessly multiple, myriads compact, 
the small airtight coffers (in chipped enamel) 
are starred over with bonelike barnacles 
that crackle and simmer throughout the trek, 
gravel-crepitant underfoot. 

Evening comes now not with the Evening
Star, but with a breathing fog. 
And fog is the element here, 
a new term, vast by indefinition, 
a vagrant damping of the deep tones 
of skies and bars and sea. 
Sand, mud, sand, rock; one jagged pool 
basining a water invisible
except as quick trembles 
over algal weed—itself 
half-absent, a virid gel. 

Walking means to lose the way 
in fog, the eye drawn out to a farther point,
a dark graph on the faint blue inlet watershine; 
out to where a heron stands, 
stationing its sharp silhouette 
against the fogbright dusk. 
Then, not to be approached, 
lifts off and rows upward, up, up,
a flexible embracing-forward on the air, 
rising out of view 
behind an opaque expanse of calcium flame.

The great kelp-dripping rocks, 
at random positions,
lost in thought and dematerializing 
with the gray hour,
release, indelibly, their pent-up contents. 
—Even the scattered feathers here 
are petrified, limewhite blades and stony down. 
The sky, from eastward, deepens 
with the dawning insight 
as the seas begin to rise, the flats 
slide away, the hulls bear off the ground,
and the eye alien to so self-sufficing 
a tidal system turns and takes up how to 
retrace the steps that brought it there. 

From Stake: Selected Poems 1972-1992 by Alfred Corn (Counterpoint, 1999). Copyright © 1999 Alfred Corn. Used with permission of the author.