The tide keeps bringing us mussels covered
with barnacles pried away from the battered rocks.
The gulls have stripped the meat from the blue-black shells
but their passengers still huddle safely within the walls
of their concrete bunkers.
She gingerly picks them up then hurls them
to arc across the water in dripping clumps,
thinking there's a chance they might be saved.
She tells me again about the first patient she saw die.
She was giving him a sponge bath, didn't realize
what was happening until it was too late.
His wife walked in and was upset that she hadn't
closed his eyes. Look, I say, and point at
a metallic green and yellow strand of sea grass
that twitches once then gently floats
on a mattress of foam, staring with lidless eyes
up through a curtain of bubbles.
I prod it but the pipefish doesn't move
as the ocean slips its fingers out from under it.
She puts up her hood and thrusts her frozen fists
into her pockets. I shout a stupid joke into the wind.
She throws her head back and laughs her dirty laugh
as we trudge over the dunes and up to the street,
knocking the sand from our shoes before we step
into the warm, quiet car.