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September 2022

Bay to Ocean Journal Spotlight Writers

 Caroline Kalfas 

An Egret and His Property
from the upcoming Bay to Ocean Journal

During my childhood, the marsh across the sound appeared impossible to reach without a motorboat or the skills of a bird. But the land’s slick, emerald blades waved for me to come and explore its exposed shores. I wanted to wade in the channel waters and step over shells like its resident white egret.

The measured distance grew more manageable in my young adult years. With access to a bright red kayak, I answered the long-standing invitation and paddled with strong strokes in the scorching sun from my sandbar to the edge of the knee-high grass growing in the wetlands.

I expected a soft arrival and a glide upon the sand. But thick, mushy mud stopped my boat at the habitat’s edge, and the majestic bird I had hoped to befriend took flight at my landing. His outstretched, pleated wings and dangling stick feet navigated toward the very dock from which I had launched my vessel.

I have often thought I should not have encroached upon the stomping grounds of the three-foot-tall bird without his permission. Innocent invader that I was, he fled from me with suspicion. And in seeing that we couldn’t share the verdant space, which I admired and he roamed, I looked to end my trespass.

Releasing my boat from the sticky swamp sludge, sweat upon my forehead, muscles stiff from my struggle with the oars, I retreated toward home across the green, choppy saltwater.

Sea spray slapped my reddened face. The afternoon wind rushed my ears. Rocking swells threatened me with seasickness.

And sure enough, my elusive friend the egret met my arrival. The aloof, feathered ambassador paced among tidepools on the sand at the foot of my cottage, which stood in the center of a row of ostentatious houses along the waterfront.

I saw from afloat what the exotic loner witnessed daily from his prime property across the way.

The line of dwellings were not nests hidden in the landscape. They were monstrosities overgrown with cement driveways, tidy carpets of thirsty Bermuda grass, and, at my house, a two-story oleander with green, pointy leaves and enticing fuchsia blossoms swaying next to my rickety steps. The flirty, toxic bush beckoned the elegant bird to wander closer.

I made my way up the yard, giving my boat several strenuous tugs.

The sleek egret skipped through the air and landed a few cottages down on the sandbar. He studied the nearby shallow water, and, as if using chopsticks, captured a floppy minnow in his pointy yellow beak. The bird swallowed the catch down his agile, thin neck, followed by a second helping of fish plucked from the tide. The well-fed fowl shook his head in satisfaction and paused as if in thought.

Winning my full attention, the bird uttered a series of throaty clucks that sounded like the slap of a playing card against a child’s bicycle spokes. And before lifting his wings and heading back to his place in the marsh, the creature poked his threatening mouth in my direction and released a raspy call.

Witnessing his frustration, I came to an unspoken understanding with the bird: I will stay on my property so he can continue to live on his.

top Photo by: David Clode/unsplash.com

CAROLINE KALFAS writes from Woolwich Township, New Jersey. Her poetry and essays have appeared in various literary magazines including The Next Chapter, frogpond, Philadelphia Stories and several editions of Bay to Ocean. Most recently, she received third place (tie) in the ninth annual Golden Haiku Poetry Contest 2022 in Washington, DC. To read more about her work, visit carolinechatter.wordpress.com.

 Ann Bracken 

Problems with Diving
from Bay to Ocean Journal 2021 

Sometimes she’s afraid to jump. No, not on the blacktop playground, where she’s mastered Double-Dutch and excelled at Chinese jump rope. That’s solid ground. No, she’s afraid

of crashing on her head when she tries to hit the diving board, spring up in the air and slice through the water, arms and legs aligned in arrow-like perfection.

She freezes the day her father puts his arm across the board, a tan, muscled lever, a foot up in the air for her to clear. Tears well in her eyes, messengers of her failure, then shame rocks her body as her baby brother executes the dive like a dolphin.

Failing, failing in front of everyone at the pool that day. Yet in the woods with friends, she’s fearless. Standing atop a hill, grabbing the coiled metal ring

on the end of a bristly rope, swinging out over the rocky gorge, she moves in time to an inner metronome—then lands on beat, dropping down on the only patch of grass. Years later, she freezes at the thought of stepping onto a stage.  Seeking out the feel of success

from her quarry-jumping days, she finds an extravagant mall that promises an indoor bungee jump. As if buoyed by an invisible parachute, she launches, unafraid.

top Photo by: Jess Zoerb/unsplash.com

ANN BRACKEN has published three poetry collections, The Altar of Innocence, No Barking in the Hallways: Poems from the Classroom and Once You’re Inside: Poetry Exploring Incarceration. Her memoir entitled Crash: A Memoir of Overmedication and Recovery, will be published in late 2022. She serves as a contributing editor for Little Patuxent Review, and co-facilitates the Wilde Readings Poetry Series in Columbia, Maryland.  She volunteers as a correspondent for the Justice Arts Coalition, exchanging letters with incarcerated people to foster their use of the arts.  Her poetry, essays, and interviews have appeared in numerous anthologies and journals, her work has been featured on Best American Poetry, and she’s been a guest on Grace Cavalieri’s The Poet and The Poem radio show. Her advocacy work promotes using the arts to foster paradigm change in the areas of emotional wellness, education, and prison abolition. Website: www.annbrackenauthor.com

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