Photo by Katy Brown, Davis
THINKING OF THE SEA
(after Thoughts of the Sea, 1919—William Cahill)
Thinking of the sea,
how it seems to follow you
as if it needs your return;
this morning’s wet blue air
brings back the sound and scent
of long ago summers.
The harrowing cries of gulls
fill your open window,
the sea so close now
it could be right outside;
you could step out the door
and walk out to its edge.
The power is yours, this memory.
You open your door
to the sea—
gone quiet now that you have returned.
is what you have waited for—
the three levels:
earth, sea, and sky
all perfectly fastened to each other.
A WINTER BY THE SEA
No one was watching, so we went away.
The sea followed with its great sound and
motion ebbing and swelling, cold and haunting.
All the pale gulls of gray skies cried and hovered,
holding their cold places against the colder
ending. We had to leave them there, beyond
our calling—faint with distance—our own—
all we remembered. Our tears blew from
our faces, and we felt the drying. Nothing
was worth the weeping, we decided,
though our eyes retained the burning.
She dances her bony siren-dance on the
shrouding shore as you in your shanty
stir the clam-bisque on your small
wood stove; she offers a gull-feather in
return for just one bowl; she offers to
dance all night for you—as memory—
as mist—then laughs her awful laugh.
Snuff the candle. Lock the gate. Evoke
some half-forgotten rune that will send
her away. Don’t risk your soul for hers.
She lives in the sea and cannot be
appeased. Resist. She can’t be saved.
THE SMALL SEA
it is a small sea
just big enough to hold my body
shores reach out to me
the moon will not make tides
my feet can touch bottom
yet I must float
sharks cruise beneath me
and do not know I'm there
days change and pass like
a small blond child (myself)
is crouched at the edge of stillness
getting the hem of her dress wet
she thinks I am a sailboat
and nudges me with a stick to
make me turn upon the water
I must do what she wants
to keep her from danger
WHEN YOUR SHIP COMES IN
How soon will the boat come for you?
You are such a small harbor;
maybe the boat will not find you.
Will it be a rowboat?
Will it have a sail?
Will it be a yacht?
You are such a poor person,
wearing mended clothes.
And you are not impatient.
All your life you wait,
bent in a looking position,
staring through the glitters
in the direction of the setting sun.
You will not see Luck coming,
until it gets dark.
And then it will be too late
to go sailing,
or rowing, or riding on a yacht.