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Christopher Buckley

In Shoreline Park


Despite every good intention, I’m nodding off alongside

zinnias and birds of paradise as we face into the blue . . .

perhaps there’s something up there to take my mind off

all that’s left to do, and the time I don’t have to do it?


Fairweather clouds shine as bright as mirrors . . .

but they don’t reflect much beyond the grab bag

of our fates, about which I’ve registered complaints

and 2nd guesses all the way to this bench where no one


in a sharkskin suit with Brylcreemed hair is about to

pop out from behind a hedge with a microphone and

shout, “This is Your Life!”, signaling the control room

to fire-up the highlight reels and bring back the lost . . .


my buddies and me on long boards, walking the nose,

pearling into the soup . . . hanging out the windows

of a rebuilt ’56 Bel Air . . . walking home from school

in broken shoes, content with nothing more than


the remainder of an unburdened afternoon. Now,

I can just hear the tide echoing below the cliff,

rushing in my blood . . . wondering how I managed

to turn up here, losses outweighing every affidavit


of joy—byproduct of stardust, a legacy from whom

or who knows where? But there’s always someone

who will declare “best day of my life” as if lives

were something we came by as easily as flowers?


I raise my hand into the mist, into the incessant salt

of memory, to spice finches and sparrows speaking up

in the last of dusk with every bit of insight available

beyond the eucalyptus, above the sea, along which


we cruised blissfully half-conscious 50 years ago,

burning up every atom of oxygen that came our way

as quickly as we could because that’s all there was to do.

And this might be the place where it’s best to pause,


to count the small change, the few fair bits of fortune,

despite the blanks I’ve never managed to fill, all that

went missing between stars, content now not to waste

one more minute worrying about the road to hell.



Walk Away


There is no investment strategy

                                                   for tossing

a potato peel or even a stale bit of tortilla

to the ½ of the world

                                   doing all the work.

I’ve long seen myself set against the stars,

against the deep

                           blue film of evening, much like

August roses.

                       Again today, no one stops to ask

about the rain

                       that never falls

                                                on cabbages or

sea-dull acacias.

                            And by the time I sit down

and reconsider things,

                                    it’s too late

                                                       to do anything

about them—to think

                                   of something beyond

the imminent

                      consequences of our cells spilling

into the palimpsest of night.

                                              All that’s clear

is that nothing’s been revealed

                                                  about the unsolved

equation of time and space,

                                             given the lateness

of the hour. . . .

                          This could be it

                                                    for those of us

paying attention?

                             On paths in the park

                                                              dust scurries

this way, then that . . .

                                     eucalyptus lining the cliff

have surrendered—

                                their bare arms lifted to a sky

that appears to be

                             tired of everything.

                                                             Hernandez said

rain calls out the dead,

                                     but so far not a soul

has shown up offering help

                                             as I’ve sat here

trying to unravel

                            the inconclusive

                                                       clouds, and what,

if any, good

                    hosannas sea birds send

                                                           to the blunt corners

of the sky might do?

                                  When I reach back

                                                                 into the bucket

of best guesses

                         there’s just the implausible


that have led me

                            in circles most of my life as if

                                                                             the be-all

and end-all

                    was something,

                                              and not nothing


than this azure dot

                              on a carousel of light,

                                                                  no matter

whether I stand on the shore

                                               and wave my hands before

before the dark immensity

                                           or, with the last dimming

cloud, walk away. . . .



Christopher Buckley has recently edited The Long Embrace: Contemporary Poets on the Long Poems of Philip Levine (Lynx House Press) and NAMING THE LOST: THE FRESNO POETS—Interviews & Essays (Stephen F. Austin State Univ. Press, 2021). His work was selected for The Best American Poetry 2021 and he was a Guggenheim Fellow for 2007–2008. He also received NEA grants in poetry for 2001 and 1984. His most recent book of poetry is One Sky to the Next, winner of the Longleaf Press Book Prize, 2023.


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