San Jose, CA
Sloughs empty and fill all day. Mud dries and bakes under a broken up, shell colored sky. Pelicans heave off to roost elsewhere, fading to a gauze of haze that isolates, almost holds us. Drops in a soft focus. The landfill piles in here, at the end of the bay. Tattered hillocks teem with paper and rag, carpet and wood, chips and shavings. Scrap metal heaped clusters of edge and gleam.
Tide leaves; viridescent oil sheen. The dark silt still pocked with clam air holes. Boats splinter in the reeds.
My father, aircraft mechanic, tunes and wires and mends his seaplane, here, near the salt ponds. Oiled hands, cracked cylinders, vise-clamped hoses. The body in need of repair. The faint tap and ring of his tools impeaches the caw of birds and as I watch him, he works, absorbed by a mesh of light and fog.
Hollow wind, shore breeze cold ruffles my hair, water, and the reeds. I’m usually in the hunt for shells.
Red and pink and green. Salt ponds expand then shrink. Colors that flex and glow. It’s an empty horizon down here, but from the air; stained glass. Latticed colors bound by levees. Sometimes it’s just pale saline sheets of salt pond brine. A brocade of variegated lakes threaded by a thin gray slough.
A skein of black wings. Geese
float like peppered specks over
the jade hued water.
My father’s still out there, mired in soft salt mud of the channel. Perched on the floats, he mends what will fly, but what won’t really leave. He wrenches the engine into a growl. Later, at high tide, we’ll bob in the water and he’ll get me to turn the prop until it mills and blurs the air. Then the seaplane picks up speed down the estuary. Scales ripple the top, danced on by coots and heron. Gulls explode in white clouds of panic.
The waves tumble and shake me. A wound-tinged wake sprays behind us as we begin to angle up into the sky: I hang on.
Together, we rise away from the world.