poem index

The Waves of My Life

The Waves of My Life
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Beach Glass
Amy Clampitt
While you walk the water's edge,
turning over concepts
I can't envision, the honking buoy
serves notice that at any time
the wind may change,
the reef-bell clatters
its treble monotone, deaf as Cassandra
to any note but warning. The ocean,
cumbered by no business more urgent 
than keeping open old accounts
that never balanced,
goes on shuffling its millenniums
of quartz, granite, and basalt.
                    It behaves
toward the permutations of novelty--
driftwood and shipwreck, last night's
beer cans, spilt oil, the coughed-up
residue of plastic--with random
impartiality, playing catch or tag
or touch-last like a terrier,
turning the same thing over and over,
over and over. For the ocean, nothing
is beneath consideration.
                    The houses
of so many mussels and periwinkles
have been abandoned here, it's hopeless
to know which to salvage. Instead
I keep a lookout for beach glass--
amber of Budweiser, chrysoprase
of Almadén and Gallo, lapis
by way of (no getting around it,
I'm afraid) Phillips'
Milk of Magnesia, with now and then a rare
translucent turquoise or blurred amethyst
of no known origin.
                    The process
goes on forever: they came from sand,
they go back to gravel, 
along with treasuries
of Murano, the buttressed
astonishments of Chartres,
which even now are readying
for being turned over and over as gravely
and gradually as an intellect
engaged in the hazardous
redefinition of structures
no one has yet looked at.
The Waves of My Life
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Inland
Chase Twichell, 1950
Above the blond prairies,
the sky is all color and water.
The future moves
from one part to another.

This is a note
in a tender sequence
that I call love,
trying to include you,
but it is not love.
It is music, or time.

To explain the pleasure I take
in loneliness, I speak of privacy,
but privacy is the house around it.
You could look inside,
as through a neighbor's window
at night, not as a spy
but curious and friendly.
You might think
it was a still life you saw.

Somewhere, the ocean
crashes back and forth
like so much broken glass,
but nothing breaks.
Against itself,
it is quite powerless.

Irises have rooted
all along the fence,
and the barbed berry-vines
gone haywire.

Unpruned and broken,
the abandoned orchard
reverts to the smaller,
harder fruits, wormy and tart.
In the stippled shade,
the fallen pears move
with the soft bodies of wasps,
and cows breathe in
the licorice silage.

It is silent
where the future is.
No longer needed there,
love is folded away in a drawer
like something newly washed.
In the window,
the color of the pears intensifies,
and the fern's sporadic dust
darkens the keys of the piano.

Clouds containing light
spill out my sadness.
They have no sadness of their own.

The timeless trash of the sea
means nothing to me—
its roaring descant,
its multiple concussions.
I love painting more than poetry.
The Waves of My Life
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Ashore
Ernest Hilbert
The harpooned great white shark heaves onto sand,
Nudged by waves, red cavern of dripping teeth.
A crowd comes. Loud gulls wreathe the booming mist.
Blue flies cloud the fishy sunset, and land.
One, sated, is slapped to a smear beneath
A child’s quick hand and then flicked from his wrist.
Compass and munitions are sunk with skulls
In wrecks beneath old storms, glass angels
And hourglasses, flint of sunlight through motes,
Violence of slit sails, drowned crews, split hulls,
Quiet draw of dust, too, and all that it pulls,
The slow leak and loss of each thing that floats—
Flail and wild eye, flecked spit of crippled horse,
Crust of diamonds on the throat of a corpse.
The Waves of My Life
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Sail
Molly Bendall
The trick is the flow. Little fish with storms on their 
minds.
              Stones don't reveal

what they covet today, but I know them.

                 I gather scraps and throw them back,
throw them back to the waves
                       even as they climb toward my room.

                         So where to go when my pockets are
light?

                     Night-shy, evening shells--
                  all eyelids and ears.

The glinting blades and their kindred---do they ever say, 
                  no one ever, clean start, and
      clean, stark, smoothed galleries within galleries 
    I want
emptied of desire, but geled with color and domes of sea-
sweets.

                   Look at the lapses in between stars,
                      vertebrae washed up at my feet.
The Waves of My Life
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A Book Of Music
Jack Spicer, 1925 - 1965
Coming at an end, the lovers
Are exhausted like two swimmers.  Where
Did it end?  There is no telling.  No love is
Like an ocean with the dizzy procession of the waves' boundaries
From which two can emerge exhausted, nor long goodbye
Like death.
Coming at an end.  Rather, I would say, like a length
Of coiled rope
Which does not disguise in the final twists of its lengths
Its endings.
But, you will say, we loved
And some parts of us loved
And the rest of us will remain
Two persons.  Yes,
Poetry ends like a rope.
The Waves of My Life
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Fisherman
Kurt Brown
A man spends his whole life fishing in himself 
for something grand. It's like some lost lunker, big enough 
to break all records. But he's only heard rumors, myths, 
vague promises of wonder. He's only felt the shadow 
of something enormous darken his life. Or has he? 
Maybe it's the shadow of other fish, greater than his, 
the shadow of other men's souls passing over him. 
Each day he grabs his gear and makes his way
to the ocean. At least he's sure of that: or is he? Is it the ocean 
or the little puddle of his tears? Is this his dinghy
or the frayed boards of his ego, scoured by storm? 
He shoves off, feeling the land fall away under his boots. 
Soon he's drifting under clouds, wind whispering blandishments 
in his ears. It could be today: the water heaves
and settles like a chest. . . He's not far out. 
It's all so pleasant, so comforting--the sunlight, 
the waves. He'll go back soon, thinking: "Maybe tonight."
Night with its concealments, its shadow masking all other shadows. 
Night with its privacies, its alluringly distant stars.
The Waves of My Life
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A Grave
Marianne Moore, 1887 - 1972
Man looking into the sea,
taking the view from those who have as much right to it as you have to 
          yourself,
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 
          top,
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
          them
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-
          fore--
the tortoise-shell scourges about the feet of the cliffs, in motion beneath
          them;
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 
          consciousness.
The Waves of My Life
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White Water
John Montague
for Line McKie

The light, tarred skin
of the currach rides
and receives the current, 
rolls and responds to
the harsh sea swell. 

Inside the wooden ribs
a slithering frenzy; a sheen
of black-barred silver-
green and flailing mackerel:
the iridescent hoop
of a gasping sea trout. 

As a fish gleams most
fiercely before it dies,
so the scales of the sea-hag
shine with a hectic
putrescent glitter:

luminous, bleached—
white water—
that light in the narrows
before a storm breaks.
The Waves of My Life
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Our Valley
Philip Levine, 1928
We don't see the ocean, not ever, but in July and August 
when the worst heat seems to rise from the hard clay
of this valley, you could be walking through a fig orchard
when suddenly the wind cools and for a moment
you get a whiff of salt, and in that moment you can almost
believe something is waiting beyond the Pacheco Pass,
something massive, irrational, and so powerful even
the mountains that rise east of here have no word for it.

You probably think I'm nuts saying the mountains
have no word for ocean, but if you live here
you begin to believe they know everything.
They maintain that huge silence we think of as divine,
a silence that grows in autumn when snow falls
slowly between the pines and the wind dies
to less than a whisper and you can barely catch
your breath because you're thrilled and terrified.

You have to remember this isn't your land.
It belongs to no one, like the sea you once lived beside
and thought was yours. Remember the small boats
that bobbed out as the waves rode in, and the men
who carved a living from it only to find themselves
carved down to nothing. Now you say this is home,
so go ahead, worship the mountains as they dissolve in dust,
wait on the wind, catch a scent of salt, call it our life.
The Waves of My Life
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To be the thing
Dorothea Lasky, 1978
To be the name uttered, but not to have the burden to be
To be the name said, but not heard
To not breathe anymore, to be the thing
To be the thing being breathed
To not be about to die, to be already dead
To not have to disappoint
To not have the burden of being late
Or punctual
To not eat, to not have to eat
To not feel anything
To not be the one whose affect is criticized
To not pick up the fallen over boxes
To be everywhere but the boxes or plates
To not break the plates
To be beyond breaking
To have been broken 
To not bear the burden of not being present
To not have to feel the pain of being hurt
To have transferred that pain over
So that hurt is only part of the imagination
And the imagination is everywhere, is every color
To not contain color, to be color
To not make sound, to be sound
To not have language, to echo, to plan language
To be the stream of words
To not be sad for
To not have those to be sad for
To not eat alone
To not fuck those who do not find your corpse attractive
To not fuck
Or stuff
To be ashes and non-placed
Not displaced, but to not be in any place
To enter the ocean on not a whim, but a physical force
Where there is no center
Where there is no safety
There never was
There was never any anger
There was never anything to look at
I never looked at anything
I just went and walked
I tried to love
But love is hopeless
And I have lost all hope, so bleak I am beyond
I am beyond what might be considered low
There is low nor high, space or time, I have 
Gone away from that which is uttered
I have not burdened to be spoken of or spoken for
To croak everyday to the livelong bog
I do not speak a thing
I exist
No, no I don't
I never did
And you may have
But I never did 
And you may have called out for me
But I was already gone
And I am already there
That which you speak of
I am already spoken for
In a world of light and ashes
They all call my name
They have waited for me
And now I know
I was always
Already there 
With them