Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Song of the Sea

by Steve King
© 2012
All rights reserved

crowning breakers crawl
gathering their weight of starlight,
each unfurling wake



come from nothing I may see,
pushing inward
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.

Live things,
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

another (again)
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.

Singing Thalatta,
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.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


by Steve King
© 2011
All rights reserved

At once aware.
Wakening in dawnless wood.
Last flicker of a sinking moon.
Oh, he would have the sun,
but he would have his dreaming too.

Slow to move;
his unknown beckoned
through the in-between:
first touch of new light
settling like mist,
lent form, hung fragile,
clung to all still things,
enfolded slow each birthing hue,
threw fleeing scenes upon the air
framed in the very least of shadows,
forged in them the shapes of the old things,
desires worn nigh transparent
with his labored overuse,
shapes that must elude hard day,
stubborn reflections building a dark tide —
destinies too easily foregone,
the weight of ancient condemnations,
ties that bound him to old sins,
fires that branded once eager souls,
loves, unmeasured and unmet,
present now vaguely in regret;
all the old stories
too often told to be completely true,
yet true enough to give life to his dreams.

So sleep at last withdrew,
flew, to lie among more docile shades.

Silence gathered to him,
left a moment’s grace,
then cracked into the prelude of a voice,
summoning piece by piece
all that would stir,
all that awaited and might await,
aware or unaware,
seen or felt or conjured,
held or held apart,
all the one instant.
All one in dawning wood.

Birds rustled amid arid leaves;
stoic rocks gave voice to the waters,
winds rose to bend each pliant bough
across its neighbor;
rough music, tuneless and anarchic,
eternal measures out of time,
unsensed harmony
hymning of old hardships
and a coming bitter season.

“—If there were only stillness,
here would be a ready home…”

He might close his eyes,
imagine other worlds…
Or he might sing anew
the story of his age,
bend old themes
to fit the strange new times…
Or he might just move on
and let old spirits guide.
He might surrender,
again and again
to the pull of that stubborn tide…

the clouds would show his way,
winds call his tune,
though none to echo a hero’s name.
Had he incense or belief
he would stoke a coal,
appease a ready god.
For all he knew an empire waited
beyond the edges of his ruined map,
a place beyond the gravity
of storied griefs,
imagined victories,
and dreamy memory silhouettes;
a place where land and sea and sky and he
would join in perfect peace,
and render true all sacrifice.

But, alas, no gods:
there would be no blessing for his ease.
He might summon only fate,
and that, his own.
Already in the waiting hour
has he set his chart,
away, perhaps, from old spirits
and anchoring memories.
Perhaps away.

Abandoned in his step were the ruins,
forgotten, as he strode, all victory songs.
Already to his path
the twists and turns
that plagued his ancient line.
Already the wanderer
--his banner an old shadow
that ever stretched before--
set out upon the odyssey;
already, the old sojourner,
adrift again upon his stony shore.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


by Steve King
© 2011
All rights reserved

Words might come, sudden,
like summer lightning,
night already settled
too quiet for your ease.

Or find you as you wonder
at some new-found mood

intruding hard

in that instant
before sense takes its chance
to parse new questions
of trial and distinction,
aversion or desire.

Sudden, to outrace
the throes of their inception
and the occult context
of well-hidden thoughts.

Come sudden emergent
from a trove of dark perplexity
otherwise unknown:
a shadow flashed before you,
holding captive all your seeing;
tracing out the arc
of a dark epic gathered at large,
you a small part,
you, minor in the telling,
mute, awkward,
waiting in the crowded wings.

The word,
soon to straddle
some tamer level of convention;
still middling strange,
even as it’s newness fades.

you take large happiness
when it satisfies
to tell of your small things;
grateful when you think you might control it;
believing you might use a word
to shield you from your terrors.

Imagining a difference
between words and summer lightning.