Pawley’s Island, South Carolina, 21 August 2017

On the beach, the waves
break over laughing children
as on any afternoon.
“It’s only one thing passing
in front of another,” I say, and you laugh
though we both know better. Anxiously
we scan the heavens.

We know what to expect. We’ve seen
the pictures, timed it to the second.
We’ve planned this trip for months.
We bought our paper optics early.
We wear our commemorative t-shirts.

Along the shore, the upturned faces
measure shadow’s progress, check
the time. Mothers adjust their children’s
glasses. Amateur professors
lecture barefoot. A girl in a bikini
and a welder’s helmet like a
naked stormtrooper stalks
the sand. The man beside us
with elaborate equipment films
the cosmos, as if heaven might be rewound.

We have not gathered here for mere mechanics.
What do we seek, we scientific pilgrims?
Our eyes blacked out
admit only the brightest marvels.

Now gray like age
descends without the royal
tones of nightfall. Only the sun
still wears its crown, revealed
in death. The birds, uneducated,
fly for unbuilt dunes, and safety.

Reluctantly the day
resumes. Neighbors disengage,
settle into chairs. The birds
turn to their fishing.
You open your novel, I
my crossword, and a beer. Time slips
by once more unseen, and we,
baptized by darkness, go on living.