These wet rocks where the tide has been,
Barnacled white and weeded brown
And slimed beneath to a beautiful green,
These wet rocks where the tide went down
Will show again when the tide is high
Faint and perilous, far from shore,
No place to dream, but a place to die,–
The bottom of the sea once more.
There was a child that wandered through
A giant’s empty house all day,–
House full of wonderful things and new,
But no fit place for a child to play.
photo by junkast
Was I the last one waiting? Epochs passed,
tides tossed the island twice each day, sometimes
a lazy shushing, sometimes violent—then
tides would frighten me, count-down clocks striking
off the muzzy days and nights. Mosses grew
around me—pin cushion, pale shield, old man’s
beard. One gray day, walking on the sand,
I found a wooden shoe last, size 4, stamped
1903, the cobbler who’d worked with it
long gone—yet why only now had it washed
ashore? And one night, I saw 6 peonies
tossed on the rocks—Sarah Bernhardts, I thought—
fringed yellow hearts, their palest pink petals
tinged vermilion, strewn, shipwrecked children,
lonely drowned bodies white in the moon’s glow.
Where does anything come from?
I picked my way over granite to gather them,
then brought them back to the cabin
where their frail heads drooped from a Chinese vase,
nodding feelingly at the dead child’s shoe.
Then, a little interlude of pure joy, amnesiac,
so human—then hail, rain, wind, the flailing trees.
I’m Nobody! Who are you?
I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us?
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!
How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!
photo by Nicole Marti
They know not the green leaves;
In whose earth-haunting dream
Dimly the forest heaves,
And voiceless goes the stream.
Strangely they seek a place
In love’s night-memoried hall;
Peering from face to face,
Until some heart shall call
And keep them, for a breath,
Half-mortal … (Hark to the rain!)…
They are dead … (O hear how death
Gropes on the shutter’d pane!)
– Siegfried Sassoon
Photo by Ashley Gilbertson for the New York Times, from a series of photographs showing the preserved bedrooms of young American soldiers killed in the last decade.
for Rene Magritte
The carpenter’s made a hole
In the parlor floor, and I’m standing
Staring down into it now
At four o’clock in the evening,
As Schliemann stood when his shovel
Knocked on the crowns of Troy.
A clean-cut sawdust sparkles
On the grey, shaggy laths,
And here is a cluster of shavings
From the time when the floor was laid.
They are silvery-gold, the color
Of Hesperian apple-parings.
Kneeling, I look in under
Where the joists go into hiding.
A pure street, faintly littered
With bits and strokes of light,
Enters the long darkness
Where its parallels will meet.
Rises in middle distance
Like a shuttered kiosk, standing
Where the only news is night.
Here’s it’s not painted green,
As it is in the visible world.
For God’s sake, what am I after?
Some treasure, or tiny garden?
Or that untrodden place,
The house’s very soul,
Where time has stored our footbeats
And the long skein of our voices?
Not these, but the buried strangeness
Which nourishes the known:
That spring from which the floor-lamp
Drinks now a wilder bloom,
Inflaming the damask love-seat
And the whole dangerous room.
Generally the poems I pick for the occasional Monday appearance are connected to something very literal in my life. It’s a way for me to process happenings (from the silly to the significant) and recontextualize them however I feel the need. Sometimes I know exactly the poem I need to post; just as often I simply type “[topic] poem” into the search field and keep sifting until the right thing presents itself, which it invariably does. The oracle of Delphi had nothing on Googlemancy.
But, the literal-ness: this past weekend I ripped up, often with considerable violence, a lot of old carpeting and linoleum in the home I’ll be officially moving into this month, to prepare it for brand new floors. I am not designed to take such things unmetaphorically, and the bare board that the work exposed feels parallel to all the getting-started going on in my life at the moment, and to the “buried strangeness” that is the mysterious continuity of self in the face of flux.