Those Who Ply the Tidal Stream*

By the shores of the Nanticoke
where the pines touch heaven every day
and ancient spirits dance by the light
of a cheddar moon,

there lives a plant called prickly pear.
Taking root, it claims the shore as fertile ground
and blooms a flower to match the full moon’s
candled hue.

Full bodied beauty, yet somehow delicate:
Don’t step on it. The thorns will give a mighty bite.
It has not lived this long by cringing
from unfriendly elements

and yet  there is a sense of nurturing
as if the hand of God is never distant
from this paradise overlooked by time,
a place unblemished by asp or Eve.

Mothered by the Chesapeake, it grows
towards that mighty Bay, a habitat
for threatened plants and animals, species
that have survived both calm and storm.

Tidewaters flow as icy clear as the day
His hand created them.  Though war once tinged
them red with blood, the ancient river
has washed their pain away

leaving the shoreline pristine again
for sun worshipers, watermen, the spirit
of the old Algonquin and the spreading roots
of the prolific prickly pear.

*The Nanticoke River, flowing quietly on the lower Delmarva peninsula, remains largely unchanged by the passage of time and still offers glimpses of the Chesapeake Bay as once inhabited by the Nanticoke Indians and discovered by Captain John Smith. The name Nanticoke translates to “those who ply the tidal stream”.

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