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Sam Barbee

             The Crossing


Peering across Marazion's Bay, a local boatman offers dry passage

over the safe harbor to the island monastery Saint Michael's Mount.

He saves visitors high-tide treks atop a submerged roadway.  We shrug

daydreams, and pay the going price and embark on his long boat. 


I trip my fingers atop brackish water as he slices through kelp

to the castle’s dock.  Ruddy sea-walls encircle the medieval fortress. 

In wild grass, I relax on a heaved rock as my children test courage,

crag to crag.  With cliffs so near, I persuade them to sit and admire


late sun reflect off the furious southern sea.  Holding each within my span

disrupts their tremors of untapped energy.  A single footpath chiseled out

of granite bedrock snakes to ramparts and the monks' gardens. 

Two hundred feet above sea level, I narrate about the warring


at Saint Michael's Mount.  Pardoned, they bound granite steps

to disappear through a Norman arch.  Between twin cannon,

we enter the Benedictine Chapel.  In this silence, here on the cobbled floor

where monks once murmured, many things whisper: pews and prayer books,


each with secrets − confessions echo and taint windows.  On a pedestal,

a bronze Archangel confronts Satan – grips Excalibur, as the other hand,

palm down, offers grace.  The fallen angel writhes on rocky ground,

shielding divine radiance, resisting deliverance.


Outside, wind rattles stunted trees.  Wildflowers anchor boulders, lend dusk color. 

Distant coastline releases dark clouds.  On the ramparts, my children bob

in and out of notches where cannons fired, my son flails his arms to mimic

explosions.  My daughter leans out, reckless, craning to see wildflowers by the ocean.


Hundreds of feet below, waves pile up, close enough to feel their spray. 

I interrupt their improvised games, and induce a pose against stone walls.

He clamps an arm over sister's shoulder and yanks her close, squeezing

frolicking breath from both. She wrinkles her nose and grins.  I smile –


one longer than necessary, an extra moment, a deeper pulse − anything

to sustain us. . . .  With ebbing tide, the soggy cobblestone roadbed

has emerged.  I consider rolling pant legs, and hiking back, but the boatman,

his hand open, coaxes to help us cross. 

We putter back between lagoon walls and rocks surged into shallows. 

A narrow path invites us ashore.

He extends both hands −

                                          Watch yourself, now.  

Strolling cool white sand, we converge with fellow witnesses


in splashed pants, shoes knotted together, flung over their shoulder. 

Our hillside routes merge on a wide and well-lit stairway carved

into the buttressed shore, framed in seconds that daydreams,

or prayers, can never recapture.



                                                                                                Saint Michael's Mount

                                                                                                   − Cornwall


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