Shadow in the Wrack

By Jodi Paloni

April 17, 2023

Shadow in the Wrack

The morning I found a loon curled in seaweed, breast picked clean, bones laced with foam from the outgoing tide, I had just been thinking how content I’ve been living and walking this brief bit of Maine coastline, black and gold sand glitter shifting in the shallows. I’d been thinking how soft the light was in the cove, just the right measure of brine in the air, and how comforting, the curve of stone in my pocket, when I was caught suddenly by sorrow. Dead loon.

I tucked deeper into my jacket, strode into the headwinds and away from the bird. I tried to ignore the bite of the winter morning, to look anywhere but at the hump of shadow in the wrack, to think anything but how the loon was gone. I had known this loon. Days before, I was walking the cove, back and forth, clocking my steps, watching two loons dip for fish. The larger one seemed to notice me. For the rest of the walk, it swam back and forth alongside me. I felt kinship.

For several nights after finding the dead loon, the image of bird ribs tucked in dark feathers haunted my sleep. Even the rise-and-fall breath of the man beside me in bed, the night heat of us, couldn’t gentle my shivering.

But today, the beach is washed clean, the smaller loon fishing further out in the distance. A sudden murmuration arrives from the south. Gulls dance against the glare of bright blue above my head. Together, we pay homage.

Jodi is the author of the linked story collection, They Could Live With Themselves (Press 53). She writes and leads writing workshops on the coast of Maine.

Image by Harry Collins courtesy of Adobe Stock

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