Issue 7: Accident vs. Design
A Publication of the USF MFA in Writing Program

Trees Marching Out of the Ocean

George David Clark


The dead trees are marching out of the ocean,

trailing their roots through the sand,

dredging long crooked tracks up the beach.

Pecans and pin oaks and cypress,

their dripping cerements of Spanish moss.

One navigates the boardwalk

bowing against the handrails like a drunkard.

Others wade through the marsh awash in fog,

through the tall wild grasses, cattails, and sea spray.

And there is not anything now

that we can do to stop them advancing

on this slumberous three-storey house

not two hundred yards from the sea.

I have numbered the gray hours

between myself and the lights

coming on later tonight across the bay

(to the west: lights on Wilmington Island;

northeast: Hilton Head; and between them:

the undersides of the clouds, lit for a moment

as they skirt the Thunderhead Marina).

They are seven windy hours too many.



Grandfather, off chemo for the last time,

his cancer now of the everything, is living

as I am with my aunt in this, her enormous house.

For exercise one or the both of us take him out

twice a day to eat. First, always at six-thirty,

to The Sunrise where the waitress, whose pretty

name is Julie, asks if he wants his regular.

My grandfather is a man with a regular

at a little breakfast-only joint within earshot

of the waves coming in and the high yawning

of seagulls: two eggs and grits, wheat toast,

strawberry jelly. He should not have so much

salt, but the grits need it. We have lunch

at one of the many seafood restaurants

where he orders lobster, takes a few good bites

before he’s done, and supper we eat at the house

in front of the evening news. Nine o’clock he says,

Ok, and I help him up from his corduroy recliner.

Such ease in his shoulders, such ease

in his back. As he rests on the side of the new

hospital-style bed, his house shoes slide off.



Before we leave in the mornings for breakfast

we drink a cup of coffee and I empty

a handful of peanuts onto the deck table

for a few local jays and cardinals, some pecans

for the squirrels. We watch the cardinal

through the sliding glass door, filling his beak

with as many peanuts as he can carry.

The space for the last nut always too small,

he must discard and discard until he finds one

broken, just the right size. We were up early today,

or the birds late. The beach lay nestled in fog.

Grandfather said something I couldn’t quite hear

(phlegm in his throat, television on),

but it sounded like, The trees are marching

out of the ocean. I asked him, What?,

but either he didn’t hear me or there was no, what.

He took another black sip of coffee.

As I rose to begin moving us to the car, he pointed.

Yes, he said, and when I looked one of the jays,

that dash of color, was there. We watched it

for a moment, then we turned and let it go.

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