Alfred Corn

Once a day the rocks, with little warning—
not much looked for even by the spruce
and fir ever at attention above—
fetch up on these tidal flats and bars.
Large. crate-like rocks, wrapped in kelp;
layer on imprinted layer,
umber to claret to olivegreen
of scalloped marbling. . . .
Not far along the path of obstacles
and stepping stones considered,
fluid skeins of bladder wrack
lie tufted over the mussel shoals—
the seabed black as a shag's neck,
a half-acre coalfield, but alive.
Recklessly multiple, myriads compact,
the small airtight coffers (in chipped enamel)
are starred over with bonelike barnacles
that crackle and simmer throughout the trek,
gravel-crepitant underfoot.
Evening comes now not with the Evening
Star, but with a breathing fog.
And fog is the element here,
a new term, vast by indefinition,
a vagrant damping of the deep tones
of skies and bars and sea.
Sand, mud, sand, rock; one jagged pool
basining a water invisible
except as quick trembles
over algal weed—itself
half-absent, a virid gel.
Walking means to lose the way
in fog, the eye drawn out to a farther point,
a dark graph on the faint blue inlet watershine;
out to where a heron stands,
stationing its sharp silhouette
against the fogbright dusk.
Then, not to be approached,
lifts off and rows upward, up, up,
a flexible embracing-forward on the air,
rising out of view
behind an opaque expanse of calcium flame.
The great kelp-dripping rocks,
at random positions,
lost in thought and dematerializing
with the gray hour,
release, indelibly, their pent-up contents.
—Even the scattered feathers here
are petrified, limewhite blades and stony down.
The sky, from eastward, deepens
with the dawning insight
as the seas begin to rise, the flats
slide away, the hulls bear off the ground,
and the eye alien to so self-sufficing
a tidal system turns and takes up how to
retrace the steps that brought it there.
From Stake: Selected Poems 1972-1992 by Alfred Corn (Counterpoint, 1999). Copyright © 1999 Alfred Corn. Used with permission of the author.

Poems by This Author

Having Words by Alfred Corn
They’d started meeting by night at the only local,
Lighthouse by Alfred Corn
Pilot at the helm of a hidden
Promised Land Valley, June '73 by Alfred Corn
The lake at nightfall is less a lake
Seeing All the Vermeers by Alfred Corn
Met Museum, 1965, the first
The Bridge, Palm Sunday, 1973 by Alfred Corn
The bridge was a huge sentence diagram
The Three Times by Alfred Corn
The first will no doubt begin with morning's

Further Reading

Poems About the Natural World
A Windflower
by Lizette Woodworth Reese
Amethyst Beads
by Eavan Boland
And the Intrepid Anthurium
by Pura López-Colomé
by Elinor Wylie
by Janet Loxley Lewis
Belong To
by David Baker
Butterfly Catcher
by Tina Cane
by Ravi Shankar
by Louise Bogan
by Elinor Wylie
by John Clare
February: The Boy Breughel
by Norman Dubie
by Erin Belieu
Fish Fucking
by Michael Blumenthal
For-The-Spirits-Who-Have-Rounded-The-Bend IIVAQSAAT
by dg nanouk okpik
Four Poems for Robin
by Gary Snyder
God's World
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Imaginary June
by C. D. Wright
In a Blue Wood
by Richard Levine
In Michael Robins’s class minus one
by Bob Hicok
Kentucky River Junction
by Wendell Berry
maggie and milly and molly and may
by E. E. Cummings
Making It Up As You Go Along
by Bin Ramke
Monody to the Sound of Zithers
by Kay Boyle
October (section I)
by Louise Glück
Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood
by William Wordsworth
Of Many Worlds in This World
by Margaret Cavendish
by Jennifer Chang
Pied Beauty
by Gerard Manley Hopkins
Poppies on the Wheat
by Helen Hunt Jackson
Prairie Spring
by Willa Cather
Russian Birch
by Nathaniel Bellows
by Lola Ridge
Song of Nature
by Ralph Waldo Emerson
by Bill Knott
Spontaneous Me
by Walt Whitman
by Sadakichi Hartmann
The Clouded Morning
by Jones Very
The Darkling Thrush
by Thomas Hardy
The Gladness of Nature
by William Cullen Bryant
The Leaves
by Deborah Digges
The Life So Short...
by Eamon Grennan
The Noble Nature
by Ben Jonson
The Parallel Cathedral
by Tom Sleigh
The River-Merchant's Wife: A Letter
by Ezra Pound
The Wind and the Moon
by George Macdonald
There may be chaos still around the world
by George Santayana
by Joyce Kilmer
Two Butterflies went out at Noon— (533)
by Emily Dickinson
by Alan Shapiro
by Robert Penn Warren
What's the railroad to me?
by Henry David Thoreau
Winter Morning
by William Jay Smith
Work Without Hope
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge