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The Assimilation

James Lilliefors

Then came the cheapening,

when even the air and the oceans

seemed to lose value.

Or – could it be they simply lost

interest, as many of us did?

Could it be that the tide, tired

of its same-old with the shore,

went out one night and chose not to return?

And the shore, seeing it had gained ground,

sighed a breath of relief and let the tide go.

Some were astonished, then,

how the wayward tide reappeared,

sowing wild oats in faraway ports:

There were sightings in the Seychelles.

On Bondi Beach. In Maya Bay.

Seaside Heights, New Jersey.

Odes and anthems were penned,

singing the praises of what a tide

could do, and be, when free,

what unsung power it could command.

Only the scientists harbored doubts:

If the tide had really broken free,

wouldn’t it have been swallowed by the sea?

“Assimilated” was the word they preferred.

But the public, skeptical by then

of any five-syllable word, just scoffed,

and waited

to welcome the prodigal tide home.

Gathering nightly by the sea

(even though the sea was within),

giving absence a presence, a value

it never had before.

Waited as if for the flotsam

of their own pasts to drift ashore.

There Will Be Warnings

James Lilliefors

There will be warnings, we were told,

and there were.

But when the first ones came,

we thought they might be something else.

So we waited.

Some warnings rumbled, some warnings roared.

Some came stealthily, silent as sea-rise.

In the suburbs they sometimes shimmered first,

then darkened like locusts, littering lawns

with strange detritus that we quickly raked into piles

and set on fire.

There will be warnings,

we told each other. Better ones.

And there were, stark as summer

snowfall. But even then,

we could not agree

which were warnings

and which were simply changes in the weather.

So we argued.

And the warnings grew

more respectable,

acquiring property,

planting shade trees,

building tents of silence

on their lawns.

And still we told our children

what we’d told each other:

there will be warnings.

And there were.

But by then, having endured

decades of them ourselves,

we also winked a disclaimer:

They are only warnings.

James is a poet, journalist, and novelist, originally from the D.C. area. His writing has appeared in Ploughshares, The Washington Post, Door Is A Jar, The Miami Herald and elsewhere. 
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