Gulf Shores Revelations

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Along the Alabama border
Where grassy hillocks and beaches
Caress the Gulf of Mexico
And strong winds blow,
An enthralled recorder
Took time to measure
Nature's power and treasure.
On a long, lonely strand
Of unoccupied beach,
I counted ten sand dollars
Within my reach;
Neatly in a row, pale
On a weathered,
Grayish wooden rail.
I imagined the pearly discs
As the straight-line
Art of a winsome wader,
A child collector;
And hesitated to confiscate
From that trove
Even a dime's worth
For a girl I know,
Who fancies shore and surf.
Casting a momentary shadow
Over an intact wheel
Half buried in snow-like drifts;
I pondered for awhile.
Where had it spun,
And how many miles;
What kind of car, over what roads;
Aboard which boat;
How and why it had arrived
To this stillborn demise;
Was it borne here from afar
By a giant storm
That wrecked a ship
And destroyed a car?
The tire I had found
Still had inflation so sound
It could resist my kick
And the tide's lapping lick.
A pair of dolphins,
Perhaps mated for life,
Deftly knifed surgically
In and out of the briny skin;
Finally vanishing within
The squirming aquamarine body
Of the foam-lathered deep.
Pelicans came into sight,
In effortless formation flight.
A single bird peeled off
Shoreward, wings unmoving,
Intermittently dipping and hovering
In a flight-sustaining breeze
Over a choppy channel.
Suddenly forfeiting ease
With a dive and dash
It plunged with a splash.
To gulp a silver prize.
Airborne again, with alert eyes
It wheeled lazily, in reverse,
For another dining traverse.
Then taking five, like a worker
On coffee break, it rested
On a sandbar, ignoring a lurker,
Then resumed flight, head steady,
Eager beak at the ready.
And to the south many more,
Dive bombers, black slashes
Against the clear blue sky;
A frozen pause and quick decision,
Wings partly-folded with precision,
The angular dark stones,
By turn fell pell-mell,
Like Lucifer, on their morsels;
Spiky bills piercing and seizing;
Bodies flinging sparkling
Spray in the sun's beams,
And foam as white as the beach;
Snatching hapless prey
And then rising majestically
For altitude and another foray.
Off Perdido Key,
Others hunched eerily
After sunset in dim light;
Huddled headless horsemen
Atop pier pilings,
Heads and bills
Tucked under wings,
Flipping them out for a peep;
Then back to sleep
After a hard fishing day
At the Gulf and the Bay. .
Other bird life: terns,
Sandpipers and varied seagulls
Seeking delicacies served up
By busy, roiling swells.
Huge mounds of sand
Slope toward the sea;
Their miniscule bits energized
As waves of impressive size
Swell, billow and spew,
And the ageless pattern is renewed
Workmen in hard hats and jeans,
Manning tools, big trucks
And cumbersome machines
To repair defaced houses,
Multi-storied condos,
Beaches and wooden piers,
Battered and remnants scattered
By the fourth hurricane in two years.
Among evidence of far-flung
Shingles, siding and windows
And doors no longer hung;
Of protective retaining walls
Of brick and concrete
Now jagged and incomplete,
Is the grim blackened ruin
Of someone's summer home,
Destroyed by storm and fire.
Vestiges of the pyre
Protrude, rusting metal fragments
Of furniture and appliances, rent
And huddling under a blonde dusting
Of sand, drifting with the gusting
Southern wind, sighing off the sea. . .