“Song of the Tides”
by Jenevieve Carlyn Hughes

2023 Poetry of the Sacred Contest Grand Prize Winner

Today I return to you
as if for the first time, searching
for sea glass along the shore, wings circling,
mussels falling like meteors from gulls’ beaks,
the tidal flats stretching an easy mile to blue

dories moored in the distance. Portuguese fishermen
with their fog songs and rope-calloused hands
stinging from salt and patience, who bless the deep
because the sea is how they spend their days,
the harbor currents rocking each vessel a lullaby.

Farther out, rust-red and bottle-green channel buoys,
white crests, and open ocean. But here, close in,
saltwater bathes the rocks and barnacles,
tide pools filled with periwinkle, abalone, anemone,
starfish. In the end, to make a poem is to become

new again, elemental as the shafts of air
bubbling up from the sand. What lies beneath,
shipwrecked, calling out for something?
Waves wash over, regenerating brittle stars.
Shadows pass by, still they sink deeper,

ossifying into the earth. I scoop up
half a clamshell, turning it until it fits my palm,
ridgelines gull-gray and cresting like a moonrise,
the weight of it bending back on itself,
and I find in its calcified curvature

a snail, hugging the world
like a quiet prayer.