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.


  1. Wow what a trip, some things seen under different light can be hip. Even if the water is clogged up, great verse, to you I tip my cup.

  2. Oh my...I rode the tide of your words to your wonderful conclusion, and what a journey it was! I believe I have professed my love of the sea on more than one occasion, but this is just fantastic. Also love the way the staggered pieces, in turn lent the same to the read of the piece...much like the tides....wonderful weave!

  3. the sea. A great journey you took us on :)

  4. oh wow..what a song...there are times when i just need to listen to that song of the sea to reset my life again...feel the pulse of the waves...

  5. what a wonderful the concrete elements as they add a visual rhythm to your the ocean as well and its rhythm...the part that stuck with me though is the feeling there are no adventures yet as i think that is something most men struggle with in their hearts...

  6. What a lovely flow and rhythm of the sea in your words. I like the words stretching across the page, and your song lyrics in the middle are beautiful.

    Love this write ~

  7. Steve, where do I begin? My words are inadequate to express all there is to love about this.This incredible piece of writing held me in rapt attention from beginning to end. You have captured the ancient/continuing song of the sea, and truly sung its words! This is the kind of piece that should be passed along and read in ages hence. Especially loved the format, the stepped words throughout that just add to the overall epic feel of this:
    "another (again)
    ...............and another (again)
    ..................................and always (again)"
    Suffice to say, amazingly beautiful write!
    *Sorry for the (.........) above, comments doesn't allow formatting.

  8. Steve! This is mesmerizingly beautiful!!! It has to be your best, so far. Those staggered stanzas, again, again, againn....has me riding the crest of the wave. The mythical ingenious stroke...the sea is old, forever and yet new again, again. "Is she reaping or bestowing back" Yes, maybe both. There's much more. I was there...Brilliant write!!!

  9. Several poems worth in one here, shifting in focus,yet constant in mood, ruminative, ebbing and flowing--wonderful use of language--what more poetic sound evoking the waves than Thalassa Really enjoyed this, felt as if I were standing on the beach watching the wash and rewash, mesmerized and brooding--a perfect capture of that state here. Excellent stuff, with too many good lines to even start quoting (tho "gathering their weight of starlight..." is a stand out.

  10. Steve, after reading breathlessly your poetry, I can truly say I'm honored you stopped by my blog. The mood, the formatting (which often, in the hands of lesser poets, comes off as cutesy) was so appropriate. I've lived near beaches before, Atlantic, Pacific, and Caribbean... and each has their own rhythm and song. "I know only this water-now" resonated with me. In the moment, in the now... Joseph Harker might like this at his new blog, which is about capturing moments, called Curio. Lovely. Amy