27 February 2011


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, chryoprase   
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 the 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.

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