A perfect day begins the night before

when a mackerel net is set in a fireball of a setting sun.

Up at dawn before marauding seals have cleaned off

the catch, I fillet them on the shore tossing bloody

entrails to screeching gulls hovering overhead,

delivering a feed to my neighbors and friends.

I’m awed by the grandeur of pristine air and sun-flooded

clouds as white as a linen wedding dress in a sky

lit from behind by a lividity of quintessential blueness.

I gather wild strawberries for breakfast on a deck

overlooking a splendor of sea and sky, munching

on June Ellen’s home-made granola and one of her

gargantuan Cowboy Cookies.

I cruise across St Mary’s Bay in a Boston Whaler

to snorkel off Wheeler’s Bar at low tide for the motherlode

of bar clams and maybe even poach a lobster or a bushel

of hefty crabs.

While mackerel and beer soaked corn are on the grill

I’ll down a few Mooseheads before sauntering along

the shore eyeballing red foxes who sit like Cheshire cats

in front of an old lobster box used as a table when they were fed

by Leonard who is now propped up on a throne of pillows,

his glazed eyes still search the horizon for his nemesis, the seal,

his shotgun at the ready only now it’s just a cane.

I’m reassured to still see herons, sentinels of the bay

standing on one leg hunting for morsels of the sea.

A bevy of piping plovers and terns tip-toe on the sandy shore

in a flurry of white feathers nattering with ospreys, gulls

and cormorant cronies.

Scattering crows, squawking chanticleers cackle, caw-cawing

ahead of me. I see apparitions of driftwood jungle creatures,

a gallery of sculptures even Rodin and Giocometti might envy:

A horse head with knots for chestnut eyes, a gnarled octopus

curled around cattail punks reaching for the sky, an elephant

with a broken tusk plunked in plush maidenhair marsh fern

as if it were a grove where elephants go to die.

A gaunt giraffe feeds on fluttering green leaves

high up in an aspen’s branches, a reindeer’s bleached white

antlers protrude in rust colored clay and verdant kelp.

A unicorn dips his horn into the swirling Gasperaux

sweetening the gushing freshet flow so smelt can leave

the estuary and breed in salt water sea.

A slow walk in the labyrinthine shallow water

empties my mind into quietness .

I monitor the underwater show:

under lucent plankton schools of silver minnows flash by.

Barnacled covered fiddler crabs careen sideways

like inebriated pals, a pair of small red fish stealthily

lumber along resembling twin submarines.

I step over cracked carapaces, steamers and blue mussels

chipped , revealing an opalescent inner layer.

Suddenly, I’m dazzled by a four foot eel darting away

into emerald green eel grass,

reminding me of how Leonard once trapped a slew

of squirming eels, nailing them to a bench, skinning

and smoking them for shipment to a Bavarian Rathskeller.

On the way back I see my father’s profile in a passing cloud

and feel an ache of regret that such an avid fisherman

never got to visit my paradisial bay.

Observing my shadow I reflect on how ephemeral

and transient we are and how elusive moments of perfect

happiness can be.

I also wonder how come my shadow is so much taller than me.

My perfect day ends slumbering in an old iron bed

with creaking springs that once cranked out a progeny of eighteen,

making do with a hand pump and a two seat outhouse

still standing next to the barn listing to the side

like a slowly sinking ship.

Milton P. Ehrlich 199 Christie St. Leonia, N.J. 07605