(We “beached” at Carolina beach the past 3 days, so this one seems apropos.)
Oak Island Pier
Fishing rods are sea urchin spikes
jutting and waiting for strikes
that jolt this moment.
One stingray hooked.
Fishermen swap fishy stories,
baiting hooks, casting into swells.
Tawny-brown birds—darker wings and tails—
hop on fish-scaly railings, fuss withy jeebs and chirps.
A splinter from a bench catches
my little toe, fishhook-deep,
but I hobble to the end.
Dig it out later.
No king mackerels nibble.
An old couple ebbs by a scaling sink.
Those birds, black reptile eyes piercing,
stalk on the railing.
Under a rim-frayed cap he looks up.
“Bait snatchers. That’s what we call ‘em—bout
steal shrimp off the hook before it hits the water.”
At dusk from my balcony,
my binoculars show the next tide
arriving with poles, bait buckets, coolers,
holstered fish knives, windbreakers, smokes,
new moon unblinking.