We live at the knife gate. The water here is waiting, stagnant, a mute radio. We sit and dangle articulations over the metal sides of the sluice: Spenser on the high gate, I on the low side—the low side of dead oysters and fetid fish. I want to see the rush of water when the knife gate slides open and lets in the sea. I want to feel the relief of saltwater currents stirring whirlpools in the deep pit, bringing the dock to sea level. I want to smell the making of brine.
The common terns share our bed, are motionless on the rails. They are not fishing to fill mouths. It seems all things animate are waiting for the ferry. There is no schedule, no guarantee the ferry will come today, tomorrow. Water is held in the knife gate’s mouth, the gate a door to a throat-like radio, the radio that annunciates with a throated rush and crash, broadcasts to the terns who then screel and call: the stirring water begins all island articulations.
How do we move in time if we are not wall-sitting, waiting for the ferry? If we are not faithful to the waiting? Can we find a home away from this sluice and listen for the terns—hope for a slow opening of the knife gate? The ferry will not wait and neither will the water. So much waiting for that rushing water, waiting for the throat to allow an open mouth. Waiting, stomach-hung, bile-breath, open-mouthed jaw bones—locked articulations. Our tuneless radio.
Six months since the last ferry. Six months since the sluice slammed open, six months since the circling of terns. Those black-eyed terns. Those pointed tongues and mouths. All ears wait for the slightest shift of metal in the knife gate, wait for the slightest sound of water. We want wings, the most beautiful of articulations, to welcome the ferry. We want a celebration of sounds on the flood radio. We want that two-way radio to let us think about home.
The terns, restless, hungry, moved to flight—terns left the vigil, left us to listen alone for the ferry. We rose when they rose, when they lifted in flight. We looked at the horizon, we listened for the canvas snap of sails. All still, all flat on the water. The common terns were noisy and screeling in the air, screeling until they reached the high mark of the horizon and were gone.
Spenser and I sleep in shifts at the mouth. But now, now why not leave the knife gate? The terns knew to make their throats and mouths into sluices and bring sound, bring their radio annunciations: their winged articulations tell us there will be no ferry.