I. The lost poem
I wrote a sonnet once about the sea,
Watching the waves come crashing on the beach,
Hearing the seagulls keening each to each:
The tide came in and snatched my words from me.
I wove the ocean-sounds into my rhymes;
I sang them loud and wild; I made them roar.
The wind came howling in along the shore —
It thrashed my verse about, and broke my lines.
So now I sit, and contemplate the fields
So still and calm, way inland from the sound
Of ocean, ocean, ocean, without bound,
That force which neither dissipates nor yields.
This is my fate — in love with sea, to stay
Far from its lure, safe from its fearful sway.
II. The land’s cry
What have you ever given me, harsh sea,
You who move back and forth all night, all day?
You stole my self, you hid my self away.
There’s nothing left of me that I call me.
Oh wanton wildness, cease and let me be.
I cannot bear your constant callous cry
Which curses me and all who live nearby
With its impersonal and bleak decree.
I’ve looked among your rock-pools, looked in vain,
For something I can salvage from the past.
I’ve watched you under sun and wind and rain,
Yet still you give me nothing that will last.
Take back these shells. Only the rocks remain.
Batter them you must. You hold them fast.
What words for you, whom I will never know,
always at the edge of knowing? You are a fantasy,
a landlocked lover’s image of the ocean.
These twisted things you spew —
driftwood, seaweed, shells, smooth polished glass,
an old wrecked boat, a bottle — come and go,
rising with the surf then falling. But what of you,
so old and vast in your forever turning, churning?
I close my eyes, and listen to the grind of waves
on scree and sand, my votive lines undoing.
Oh, this waste of words tossed by the tide,
spurned by the gods, whom there is no appeasing.
Take, instead, the chough’s cry and the wind’s cry,
forever part of you. No words, no words at all, will do.