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Sea light plows the soil, and
The soul-forsaken stretch of land
Along this battered coast leads a stray wind
Towards a green temple floor topped by a procession
Of clouds marching briskly past on a pilgrimage; meanwhile
Pious birds in the sky’s
Blue windows, dreaming of a fish
Or five and two loaves, chew on the silence.
A white sea washes up the remains of today’s
Wild orphans: a savage end to everything that might be
Thought of as the future.
Silver-fresh sea-gray plowed furrows
Ripple out from a red tractor spewing
Black smoke, a man swims around inside a glass cab,
And beyond the salt marsh and Nowhere City, the gouged earth
Slices the horizon.
Sea birds (white eyes in the face of
The surly clay) peck at the remnants of
Unraveling time and the succulent worms, which share
With the dead an inability to bear the daylight.
Light and day merge here like
A pair of blind lovers, naked
As the sea and wild as the waves stranding
In eyes that surprise the thoughts out of other eyes.
While the wind whips through the winter wool of grass-eating sheep,
Frenzied terns and gulls chase
The flat-sky and high-tide lines—twin
Tracks of poverty and abandonment—
(A sight that clears the mind of all but emotions),
And a lone osprey tries to hover in the hostile gusts.
Between the blue coast in
The west and the gray spit of land
In the grim north walks a woman, so floored
By the wind’s flagellation that her sea-green eyes
Stare unseeingly at where she’s gone and where she’s going.
On the black heels of fate
(A door and a mat offering
An endless wait instead of a welcome),
She wrestles her way through the emptiness, between
One night and another, towards nowhere that will call her name.
Autumn’s bare carpet and
The upturned clay encircle her
Like a black armband of grief, then she too
(A nurse with no kin, wearing a white skirt: a wing),
Disappears along with two geese behind the dike. But look,
Over there, where her voice
Bewitches mythical beasts, and
Listen. You’ll hear Lockkeeper West-Northwest
Tear apart his house and toss the bricks in the lock,
Doing his best, oh loveless moon, to stem the spring tide, yet
So many years ago
That sailors have long forgotten
How the sea licked the tiles off the loft in
Seventeen-seventeen or eighteen-twenty-five,
Swallowed tongues, and ferried spades to churchyards. You’ll also hear
Dike Worker Ebb-And-Flow,
Whose abbey of land, sea and sky
Is a temple made out of mere breath, which
Anoints the soul with its long psalms and reconciles
The bony land and the mind’s boggy depths with its mantras.
Sprung forth from seeds and shells,
The keel of his black-frothing ship
Slicing deeply into the drowning night,
An old sea captain speaks, and his besilted eyes
Cast a fishing glance at the silting up of the harbors,
A dredged-up skeleton,
And the gratifying influx
Of glass eels that look straight through Atlantis
On their way here to turn silver among sweet reeds,
Where the moon leads them, one cruel night, into the waiting nets.
With more fervor than sight,
He brings a grain dealer on board,
So they can fish to their heart’s content in
The sea near the island off the coast where rabbits
Were once clubbed and egg-sick birds beat their wings to ward off foes.
When the fish were on shore
And the tankards on the table,
They caroused the rest of that skinned, gutted
And hip-booted night, while the whistling wind, whittled
Out of clouds, hung on the captain’s lips and made his tongue fly:
A white-winged gust of wind
Seizes a loving skirt outside
The open door of the last sad-eyed house
Before the salt marsh and Nowhere City begin;
As dust is whacked from a mat, she averts her white teeth and
Stares across the dark fields
At the black-lined clouds, then whispers
“Theo” (with a lifelong “O” at the end);
At last turmoil stops agitating her skirt, since
Her black heel has kicked the white-shocked door firmly behind her.
On the plow-rutted roof,
Sea light caresses Venus shells,
And the dry loft still looks out on the black
Furrows of the waves beneath wind-plowing geese, on
A freezing night, in which no soul will ever find a home.