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Tuesday, October 15, 2013


by Sara Berkeley

Image source:

The day the government shut down
the ocean showed up for work.
They put some barricades up
but waves kept coming in, unfazed.
The toilets were locked
and the barricades went up
to stop the people coming in to the park
but we went early, before they closed
the National Seashore, and I can attest
that the seals and the pelicans
and the small fish and the birds that eat them
kept coming back for more.

The waves were giving it their all,
rending the heart of the beach in two,
throwing their violent weight around
while Congress ran aground;
the rush of foam and fuming toil
of the wind blowing spume back
from the crests as loud as the silence
along the corridors of power,
the sand hot beneath our feet,
the water silvery gold, the gulls
laughing and crying as we were
laughing and crying too.

Pelicans flew as low as they dared
we reckoned they hadn't heard
that the government was hung -
hoist by its own petard -
that they'd put some wooden barriers up
to stop the tourist cars
from visiting the National Seashore
while well beneath the roar of the breakers
tearing up the shale
and the keening wail of the gulls
the day was a good day, ungoverned,
lovely, full of miracles.

Sara Berkeley was born and raised in Ireland. She has had five collections of poetry published, one of short stories, and a novel. She has been widely anthologized, including in the Harvard University Press An Anthology of Modern Irish Poetry. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, daughter, dog, cat, guinea pig, and varying numbers of fish. When she is not writing poetry, she is a nurse for traumatic brain injured patients. She is well ready for the shutdown to end.