Sea and Woods

To Rose MacMurray, an Ocean-Loving Poet Friend


I. Sea

There’s something restless, ceaseless in this wind—
A something craving cover from flung spray
Of salt on thrashed, bald-battered spits of sand
That says, “Oh child of bowers, do not stay.”

What’s here, what’s here but tranced simplicity—
These sun-beat laterals? No hold
To ease this endless scape of sand, sea, sky,
And groaning litany of thrust and fold—

The crest and crash of waves. Here, screaming sun,
Unchecked by brush or branch or building’s guard,
Finds just the wash and wrack of things undone:
Split stones and shelly fragments—haggard, hard.

Walking on this weather-racked expanse
Of minimums, with wavelets at my feet:
They come, they cede—they do that lapping dance,
Slapping a bit, then foaming in retreat

Again. Now, trudging up, I bear the blaze
Of beach; proceed with steps on soft-piled sand,
Unsure where to—no landmarks meet my gaze:
I shuffle simply, sinking in dry land.

II. Interlude

And yet you've found the poetry in this
Through all the olive seaweeds’ tangled slop,
While I, soul-blunted, ponder that I miss
The humblest woodland wildweeds. Still, don't stop
Your paeans to these “agate miles of beach”;
To plovers and the “rushing golds of swells":
Perhaps for me alone, seas slip my reach—
Fleeting as fresco-painting in pastels.

III. Woods

I fly for succor toward a rustling wood
Where, round a shaded path through prickly pine,
And poplar, filtered light slips—soft and good,
Tickling a quaint, meandering vine . . . 

O endless wonder pressed in sheltered spheres!
In lowlands, reeds rise clustered in the air
About a stream-pool, where the water clears
And every cell breathes—coolingly aware.

On higher ground, calm shadows intermix
With intricate designs of quiet forms:
Here, lichen-covered rocks hide bending sticks
Above the burbling wetlands’ caddis swarms.

Beyond a northern incline, oaken spires
Rise with poplar high in noble halls
Bedraped in moss; and stirring avian choirs
Streak through the humid air with fluting calls.

In wending inlands, vigor’s sunk its roots—
Through lowland, highland, all the forests’ ground;
In woods, God's hand of grace is most astute—
Here Muses prosper—graceful, tall, and crowned!


Yet surely, Spirit’s strength suffuses all,
Out from the brakes and into strands of bare
Hard ocean. Lady, help me feel that thrall
In seas’ wide spheres, which you proclaim so rare!

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