Searching for Agates

for Jon Zurn, Pebble Beach, Lake Superior, 2000


In the dream I take you
to Pebble Beach
where earth’s fresh water
heaves and falls

This beach is pure rock
a stretch of dull gray pebbles
dark and flat
oven-warmed and
just the size to hold in your hand

Muted beauty such as this was once enough


But then I take you
barefoot into the icy water
where the steady tide of Superior
breathes in and out

I show you how to reach down
behind the wave
and scoop away
the top layer of wet stones

Exposed pebbles seem the same
dull gray–but smaller, finer
and the next lip of the lake fills in
the dent

We continue: wave, back, search
wave, back, search

The sun is white overhead
and seagulls pick their way
along the beach, swooping
gracefully behind us

The wave recedes and
I reach my hand into the earth
revealing something blood red
shiny, beautiful

The first agate, for you

If we stay, we will uncover more:
tiny fragments of brilliance

We can dry them in the sun
for keeping or
throw them back like fish

Maybe you think there is a difference

But in the dream we have seen
what lies beneath,
and the memory of its haunting beauty
will never be silent

Always it will be here, searching

for agates