Tiger on the Beach

We round the point, run
into the plate-glass shock
of your presence.

Who designed
the monstrous fact
of you?  

Who engineered the slipstream sinews,
the meeting of muscles that steels 
your formidable form?
Sea tiger, kua, shark chief, na ‘aumakua1
why are you lying so still
on the shore?

We find you fin first
discover you from the architecture
the angle of your tilted tail
even your stench is impressive
finger over nostril, hand over mouth
I pace your presence from end to end.

How can it be
that your plain potency
cannot flick the fly, the crab?

Your skin has begun 
to wrinkle, echoes
the pattern on the ocean floor
becomes fingertips of children at bath time
but on your lonely shore
sea abandoned, the tide is out. 

I slide one forefinger
slowly over your flesh
my muscles tensed and irrational 
the terrain of your skin
a sea of serrations 
resisting my touch all the way.

Your prised jaws 
closed like a finished sentence
your trophy teeth hidden
lending you an alien softness
wide-eyed, full-faced
open

And your one quiet eye
amber and turned 
to the sun
what did it last see?
what kind of parting gift
did the light leave?

Then there it is
above the eye, the mark
that makes me see

skin cold I read
where the blade
drove in and in and in
forgive us wild
and terrible friend

we have sinned.

1 Na ‘aumakua means ‘ancestor spirit’.  Hawaiians from the Ka’u district believe believe that some sharks are the embodied form of ancestors.

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