by Steve King
All rights reserved
crowning breakers crawl
gathering their weight of starlight,
each unfurling wake
come from nothing I may see,
from the black thin edge
where sea does rise, sky does fall—
where long night has gathered all,
starlight and sea,
meeting far from laboring landbound eyes
that are tied to other heavy horizons.
From far, the flaring breakers now,
to end here at my feet;
wakes spent upon sudden shallows,
stumbling to their finish,
broken on the waiting shore,
splayed upon ancient sands,
empty now of stars,
draining back upon the black.
the breakers stalk each jetty,
fill the empty coves,
make smooth ancient ground,
and bright the muddled world:
sand, seaweed, fossils, shells,
papers, cigarettes, drained bottles,
now strange in starlight,
attendant relics to the water’s touch.
I wait on the waters,
knowing every measure of this beach,
knowing where the tides will ease,
lingering just out of reach,
watching each clinging wave recede.
Yet for all the things I know,
the calls remain as new,
each one a different note
and another (again)
and always (again)
singing the old song to me, this sea,
true airs the winds will pass along,
but lyric for no idle voice.
The tide slides beneath empty boats.
Music rises, slips
in an unwritten rhythm,
stout ropes stretching to a groan,
old hulls grinding on rusted piers.
Sleek gulls rustle on shiny rocks.
A string of sagging summer banners
yields to risen winds,
ripples as they pass,
wind given voice
by everything it touches,
breathes a name, complete,
upon all things that lay beneath.
mistress to great wanderers
who rode the undulating surge
for love or plunder or oblivion,
death, joy, or…some things else:
something gathered upward in the gales,
or reckoned for them from below…
I’m thinking there are no adventures left,
no unknown passages,
no seas empty of keel or sail,
no pristine surge unchecked.
Not a current’s worth of mystery these long days,
and such a small horizon left to breach.
…thinking there are no adventures left…
But the song,
and the dark mother strains
that I may hear—
my small adventures are not for her,
nor the selfish prayers of such a one.
And she sings…
“This tide does welcome all the world,
your highest things will be made low;
your leavings shall be gathered here,
from earth or air or fire claimed.
Monuments that, immortal, stand,
and miracles wrought by your hands,
will some day yield to my caress
and become one with all things else
that I reclaim from distant shores.
Your glories and your scattered shames
will merge with those of ages past;
your brightest song and blackest curse
will harmonize my choruses.
And ages hence will come a day
when all that’s locked in my dark hold
shall find a life in some new surge
and travel on to its new shore.
And may it be that someone waits
to watch each wake as she unfolds,
and see the stars lit in her tow
as all these things do gather o’er:
Another world, one new and bright,
then to await the tides once more.”
Her swells are pooling at my feet
while I am lost in listening.
My spirit shrinks from the touch:
Is she reaping?
Or bestowing back?
Maybe both it is.
From the town, a clock tower tolls,
music, too, upon the night.
It counts a moment,
then the echo dies
and time is lost again forever,
save for my dark measure
I am no ageless watcher,
fit to gauge strange times
or balance karmic ebbs and flows.
I know only this water—now,
hear that water song;
and as its chorus flows to me,
I watch her shining imprint
spread upon the shore;
but only for the moment.
She slips back upon the edge,
starlight waiting where she gathers there;
and all the dark murmurs meld their refrains,
so she may sometime sing to me again.