Reginald Shepherd
Come This Far

You write things down in your sleep

you can’t remember when you wake up,

casting off doubts like rowboats into low surf

receding toward another saltwater nowhere

on the way to leaving the poem behind.

You wonder if form could be contagious,

shaping the visible to the horizon

where the sky drowns in your blues,

your green unsettled waves scribble their signatures

on white sand comprising millions of crushed quartz

particles. Willets and black-headed laughing gulls

skim the white and wrinkled pages

for what waves left behind, the drowned out

names: polychaete worms, small clams, and snails.


If we were standing on the beach

to watch the Gulf roll out its jade

and turquiose distance, I’d put a flag there

for you: sea turtle, nurse shark fin, floating

log of drifwood bobbing, something

to break up the horizontal, break into

song that interrupts the rush and hiss of tides

on sand, water’s willingness to wander,

to return. Several schools of rays

fly underwater just off-shore,

mantas, perhaps, but much too small,

what are they teaching today? The wind

is a secret that tells itself, its heavy

vowel clusters mumbling afternoon.


We have come to the end of the body

and the body doesn’t end, terns and

brown pelicans break the surface concentration

to dive for small fish. Local bays and bayous

are almost swallowed up

in dioxin, sewage, run-off from the paper

factory and toxic seepage from assorted

Superfund sites. Perdido, Blackwater,

Texar and Grande still glister, what with the light

locked in its present tense (today casts off its doubts

like sand poured from white sneakers).

Gulls salvage whatever they can

find, pick at the remains of pronoun

and place, never look light in the eye.


We cannot get simpler colors (your eyes are blue

with flecks of green, or gray mingled with

blue), wouldn’t want that anyway.

Found In Volume 34, No. 01
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Reginald Shepherd
About the Author

Reginald Shepherd was the author of Otherhood (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003), Some Are Drowning (winner of the 1993 Associated Writing Programs’ Award in Poetry); Angel, Interrupted; and Wrong. He died September 10, 2008.