Along the coastal Atlantic at summer’s end
the Caribbean’s hurricane mood looms
over the waters north to New York, the Cape
and beyond. The season’s swells deliver you
from the human traffic toward the sun
while the locals remain to neighbor their brooding god.
In fishing villages, the perennial change
in weather forces the trawlers and dredgers
to make less picturesque and more dangerous runs.
Carnival barkers break for higher ground.
A certain kind of homeless drifter scavenges
empty, windswept streets and beaches for the leavings
of the summer parade. And the shore folk gaze from
grassy dunes, walk the water’s muddy, roiling edge
in bare feet, rolled cuffs, to regard their drifting spirits.
For inlanders, the seas are circus amusements
great, gentle idiots who balance children on laps
for fun and snapshot reminiscence, but sometimes
the tide’s embrace grows dumbly tight, and even
in the frightened, clutching struggle of arms
snaps a neck, and the god appears a terrible thing.
Sea people know this. They live beside the behemoth
as grassland hunters must have slept beneath
the pulsing night: fathoming the rhythms and measuring
each day by the length of the heaving rests.
What moves their world moves among them, but apart.
When the creature rouses, in leviathan havoc
stirred to upset by whatever earthly ill
they know the cruel and human cost
will affirm inhuman nature.
In the west, where I live now, along the southern shores
the ocean’s more Pacific air will stage
these seasonal dramas, but waves more often
break the shoreline tamely
with maybe a lion’s circus roar for show
and the sky sits upon this broad expanse
as if to cap a sleeping Buddha with a gong.
Here the barren granular and liquid planes
may bleach from cast-off eyes in soft repose
all the social colors the will recalls
and the vast earthly loneliness of the elemental world
becomes a native sphere. For all of cathedral creation
vaulted in desire beyond what artificers know
the tug of first conception is the tide to where we go.
In my life, I have lived by oceans, and peering
seen the slow-sailed trend to the vanishing point
of every kind of craft the distance draws.
The water rests upon its roundness, curves
in the mind as the clear sky falls in place.
The blue green oils the uneven face;
the fish schools speed the way.
The Gulf and jet streams
stream over the farthest cold springs
to where failing human calculation
measures only the turning vague
of every hard and specific thing.
There a small round island rises
at the flooding verge of sight –
unmarked but by a central slope
of grass on shell white sand.
A lone palm stands
irradiant against the purple air.
Nothing moves, nothing sounds
in still winds above the noiseless splashes.
Then do we fly or dream we fly
fast over the speeding white caps
wrapped within a rush of silence
to what further lapless latitudes may flow?