Coming Home To A Mangrove Forest
Umm Tais National Park
A stand of dead coral extends
from Qatar’s northern tip,
where two barrier islands are forming –
Grey mangrove dominating,
the other salt-tolerant ones
just as reverent: desert hyacinth,
bean caper, sea lavender,
saltwort and sedge.
To get up close and personal,
wade across a tidal channel.
You’ll hear them, the mangroves,
breathing through their long horizontal
roots that shoot up spikes through
saline mud – pneumatophores.
In this coastal salt marsh habitat,
an erect-ascending shrub offering
capsules to be dissolved in milk –
a Bedouin’s aphrodisiac.
Ah, the botany of desire: mangroves’
sweet breathing. No, you must not
gaze at them from the shore.
You must get your feet wet – let soles
sink into tiny holes of ghost crabs.
Tread softly, tip-toe – minnows among
aerial roots. And mud creepers –
whelks, snails, mullusks.
Birds and bees among the leaves
and tiny flowers, grey to match the mud.
Halophytes – those heroes of halos
thriving where most cannot,
excreting salt through tiny holes
in leathery leaves, or simply shedding
salt-stuffed foliage. Bowing down
in a most profound show of reverence.
If we heed their example,
we could be transformed –
sinner to saint, the quaint life
of mangroves and their brethren halophytes.
Immeasurable, what they give us –
their serenity to be envied.
How irreverent my painted toenails
against the grey of saline mud.
A blessing – how else to consider them? –
gracing this intertidal zone.
Like coming home, feeling welcomed
here among them. Do you not see it,
feel it – sheer shimmering radiance –
this tidal channel filling you with a delight
(you thought you’d never feel again)
to offset the bleakest dark night?
Diana Woodcock teaches composition, creative writing, and environmental literature in Qatar at Virginia Commonwealth University’s branch campus. She is the author of Tread Softly (FutureCycle Press, 2018), Under the Spell of a Persian Nightingale (Word Poetry Books, 2015), and Swaying on the Elephant’s Shoulders (Little Red Tree Publishing, 2011), winner of the 2011 Vernice Quebodeaux Pathways Poetry Prize for Women. One of her poems was performed live onstage in Lincoln Park, San Francisco at Artists Embassy International’s 21st Dancing Poetry Festival, and she was included in Best New poets 2008. Prior to teaching in Qatar, she worked for nearly eight years in Tibet, Macau and on the Thai/Cambodian border. Woodcock is a native Virginian holds a PhD in Creative Writing (Lancaster University).