The Sound

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Accabonac, Shinnecock, Peconic, Napeague,
the creek, the bay, the stream, the Sound, the sounds

of consonants, hard C’s and K’s. Atlantic,
the ocean’s surge, the clicks of waves

collapsed on rocks in corrugated waters,
the crowd circling a stranded whale

sent by the god Moshup to beach at Paumanok.
The Montauks left us names. Their successors,

Millers and Bennetts, whose names are carved
on local gravestones, rode rough tides,

strung trawl lines for cod, and even on Sundays,
parked vans by the sea and gazed in fear

until commercial hauls replaced their boats.
Surfmen gave names to streets that bag the tourists,

who prize their charm. I hear old sailors rage,
in many languages, against cold winds,

the light now clear, now haze: Pharoahs and Mulfords,
whalers (names unknown), hurl throaty curses

that rise with the sound of waves and with the cries
of an ice-colored gull plucking scallops in shallows.

Grace Schulman’s latest book of poems is Without a Claim, out this month. She teaches at Baruch College, in New York City.
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