The Light in the Marsh Grass

Jeffrey Harrison

was alive: small creatures aglow and crawling
one after the other down each tall green blade—
thousands of them bending at all angles—
along the quaggy edge of the salt marsh cove
the three of us had paddled our kayaks into…

luminous bits of green-gold sliding down
the myriad stalks, but inside them, as if the marsh
were sucking down the warm light through
innumerable living straws, drop after drop
in a wavering, steady, mesmerizing rhythm,

and for once no explanation we could think of
(that unseen ripples on the cove’s mirrory stillness
focused the late sunlight in eely ribbons
that scrolled down the blades of spartina)
could diminish the marvel we had chanced upon,

and we gave up trying to explain it, gave ourselves
to it—as if we had ingested some hallucinogen
that opened our eyes to what was there all along
but had gone unnoticed, each of us in our own pod
of selfhood floating on the fetid, primordial cove

now held together in awed suspension by these grasses
aswarm with lights that also flowed in waves through us,
wanting it not to stop, asking ourselves why
we’d never seen what had been going on for eons,
asking how we could keep it, and knowing we could not.

Jeffrey Harrison is a poet whose fifth book of poems, Into Daylight, won the Dorset Prize. More recently, his poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Southern Review, The Hudson Review, The Gettysburg Review, Poetry Northwest, Pleiades, Five Points, Best American Poetry (2016 and 2017), and elsewhere.
Originally published:
July 1, 2018

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