There are sounds
you come
to know
living by the sea

not just surf
and wind
fog horns
and bell buoys
and lanyards
against the mast
but engines

lobster boats
head out
at dawn

sailboats motor
through the doldrums

In summer heat
the pleasure craft
go chop and thwap
across the open water
disturbing the peace
but quickly gone

In the distance
in winter
in the right wind
a tanker
can be heard
from out in the shipping lane

And then there are the choppers

You listen
for directionality
it could mean all the difference

One that simply
passes overhead
and continues on it's way
is no great cause
for your concern

Constant trips from East to West
West to East
the woods
are burning

But the worst of all
is a chopper
following the coastline
up and down
and then again

for that means mostly
someone missing

someone's brother
sister mother dad
went for a dive
and never surfaced
slipped on a rock
and got pulled under
fell from a boat
fell from a dock
fell from a cliff
sank to the bottom

or (simply) disappeared

This week it was a child
not quite 3

For 2 days solidly
the choppers flew
from Long Beach up to
Emerson Point
and back

On the ground
they searched the nearby houses
with canine assistance
the salt marsh
the creek
the woods
the roads

and started again

the town and state
and coast guard

the neighbors
the family
the volunteers

2 solid days
of hope and lose

2 days of feeling
the pain of a mother
who turned away
for a second
as parents have to do to live
and yet
rarely forgive themselves

10 minutes or so
would go by
without the sound
and I would let myself think
"they found her"

but then it would start again

this morning there are no choppers
the Staties are still in place
with giant rescue vehicles
that look like former rock star busses
but no more choppers
the search
called off
the rescue

nothing but


Ann-Patrice Hickey