what the tide kills

So this is the tide, fetching strange little beings to be tossed upon the beach for me to inspect. I assess the damage, mumbling to myself. O, interesting: I remember that. That must have been pretty far down.

Then I watch these things die. I can’t throw them back far enough for them to escape the tide’s inexorable persuasion back to shore, and they need to go anyway. With them alive, with them unknowable and waiting in the wet blank sea to surface and sting before I can call out, I won’t ever be safe.

They need to go.

Something whispers to me as I squint into the horizon. Without realizing what I’ve done, the conch is at my ear and I am listening to the dying thing inside.

You abandoned us, it murmurs. We couldn’t find you in the water and we couldn’t see you on land. We had to guess you were gone for good. I flinch before I can prevent it. Why did you leave us?

I put the shell down and walk away. But I do it in bare feet so I can feel what I’ve killed, every single fin and tentacle and everything that choked on my air.

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I acknowledge that I live and work on stolen Cowlitz, Clackamas, Atfalati, and Kalapuya land.
I give respect and reverence to those who came before me.