Man looking into the sea,
taking the view from those who have as much right to it as you have to
it is human nature to stand in the middle of a thing,
but you cannot stand in the middle of this;
the sea has nothing to give but a well excavated grave.
The firs stand in a procession, each with an emerald turkey-foot at the
reserved as their contours, saying nothing;
repression, however, is not the most obvious characteristic of the sea;
the sea is a collector, quick to return a rapacious look.
There are others besides you who have worn that look--
whose expression is no longer a protest; the fish no longer investigate
for their bones have not lasted:
men lower nets, unconscious of the fact that they are desecrating a grave,
and row quickly away--the blades of the oars
moving together like the feet of water-spiders as if there were no such
          thing as death.
The wrinkles progress among themselves in a phalanx--beautiful under
          networks of foam,
and fade breathlessly while the sea rustles in and out of the seaweed;
the birds swim through the air at top speed, emitting cat-calls as hereto-
the tortoise-shell scourges about the feet of the cliffs, in motion beneath
and the ocean, under the pulsation of lighthouses and noise of bellbuoys,
advances as usual, looking as if it were not that ocean in which dropped
          things are bound to sink--
in which if they turn and twist, it is neither with volition nor
From The Complete Poems of Marianne Moore. Copyright © 1981 by Marianne Craig Moore. Reprinted with permission of Marianne Craig Moore. All rights reserved.

Poems by This Author

Baseball and Writing by Marianne Moore
Fanaticism? No. Writing is exciting
Diligence Is to Magic as Progress Is to Flight by Marianne Moore
With an elephant to ride uponó
Ennui by Marianne Moore
He often expressed
Feed Me, Also, River God by Marianne Moore
Lest by diminished vitality and abated
He "Digesteth Harde Yron" by Marianne Moore
Although the aepyornis
Poetry by Marianne Moore
I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond
Silence by Marianne Moore
My father used to say
Sojourn in the Whale by Marianne Moore
Trying to open locked doors with a sword, threading
Spenser's Ireland by Marianne Moore
has not altered;--
The Fish by Marianne Moore
wade / through black jade
The Paper Nautilus by Marianne Moore
For authorities whose hopes
To a Steam Roller by Marianne Moore
The illustration
When I Buy Pictures by Marianne Moore
or what is closer to the truth
You Are Fire Eaters by Marianne Moore
Not a mere blowing flame

Further Reading

Related Poems
A Pot of Tea
by Richard Kenney
I Found Her Out There
by Thomas Hardy