Kayaking the Alaskan Coast

by John Grey

We’re kayaking close to the coast,
a greenbelt of spruce 
to the towering mansion mountains beyond,
gliding on chilly water,
(the warmest it ever gets)
in and out of the granite coves.

Sun laps against ancient stone,
its temperatures more pale and lingering 
than full on
in these long days of light,
of bobbing gulls and living relief maps.

Up close, we see barnacles that blacken stone,
limpets and lichens, 
in narrow inlets,
foolhardy moss battered by cornered waves.

High above, sea eagles soar,
eyes on watch 
for the tiny lives
embedded in their niche
or moments of fish bravado
as they skim too close to the surface.

We drift into the intertidal zone,
minute biomes clinging on between the splash and spray,
hardy survivors of the all-round roughness,
constant colonists, persistent pioneers,
seeking balance in an unbalanced world.

The air prickles, salt smears the nostrils
but, just beyond the breaker line,
a pod of orcas performs for an audience of two,
bursts of black and white, of tail,
of heads that treat the surface 
like a curtain to their stage.

This is a land of giants
but also of the minuscule, 
of predator and prey,
small movements, glacial caving, 
two men, paddles in their hands,
a wilderness, everything else.


John Grey is an Australian poet, U.S. resident. Recently published in That, Dunes Review, Poetry East, and North Dakota Quarterly with work upcoming in Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal, Thin Air, Dalhousie Review, and failbetter.