I watch with some dismay as they face
the glittering Pacific, their feathers
ruffled in the coil and furl
of a mid-September breeze, and despite
the long passage their plumage
is crisp and white as silence.
The royal terns are back for the winter.
With their ragged black crests
and dagger-like beaks
they pose with entitlemen on their piece
of beach where the low tide polishes
sand into a glassy oasis
and each bird is twinned in the mirror
as if to pierce me twice with its
message of change.
The sifting hush of a small wind.
The slap of familiarity. And
this is it, then, isn’t it—
the terns arrive abruptly and summer
dissolves in waves at their feet
before I can beg it to stop.