Sunday, August 26, 2012

Letter to Erin from Gore Bay at the End of August

Forgetfulness has power,
And death does its work,
Only in desire,
Not in time.

--Yves Bonnefoy, “Let This World Endure”

The compact silence of stones when shadows
of beach grass flicker across them in the wind ---

if I note these things, will they weigh
more real for you, or for a longer time?

A small boat on the water, and someone wears a red shirt.
When wind comes in from the lake,

voices blow toward me, a gruff stumble of
drunken singing, at ease, I think, in the lightly

floating pod of a self, and a quieter voice,
steadily urging some caution that I can’t make out.

Which speaker wears red? Small waves
shush and retreat, a milky sheen on their backs,

opal more than milk, as the late sun slants low,
honed edges folding into themselves.

I have waded out past the slippery rocks
and swam with gulls floating nearby --

now I listen by the waves, shirtless, beginning
to shiver in the first late-summer chill,

glad for the blanket around my shoulders,
the promise of warm sleep rising in me like water,

and soon a drive in darkness from this island
back to you, lifting sheets to lie by your body.

Twilight thickens to hide the mind that desires these things,
as if we began at dawn by remembering the relinquished earth,

and I have landed here, finally,
to watch it disassemble again

and tatter down around me, as always on such evenings.
We desire that the world endure, last,

knowing in advance that all will be lost,
but leaning to the voices from the drifting boat,

wanting the gull pecking at the edge of the water,
the black cormorant tacking farther from shore,

the earthy smell of weed cover that could almost
be sweetgrass but is not.


  1. A stunning work-as if written in one breath-opening out, centering in.

    1. fourteenth: breath is a key, i think, not necessarily to this poor poem, but to all writing (and perhaps to many other things, as well) ... i want it all to be one breath, and myself carried on that wave ...

  2. A bluebird leans from a twig here to listen.

    I think our noticing things does do something ... puts them into a different room, where they are not forgotten.

    1. Ruth: thank you for the bluebird :-) i see it ....

      our noticing does everything ... it lifts small things into being from the chaos ... perhaps they are sometimes better off in the chaos -- yet what else can we do ... paying attention is being alive ...

  3. these lines are the small stone that this poem and all rests upon,

    We desire that the world endure, last,
    knowing in advance that all will be lost

    and so your poem flows from here in the making and unmaking of waves, the elusiveness of all things in between, with form, but real? yes, yes, real, but not real, the binder of all that we have. between us (all of us) a gossamer web is drawn with these small events, the red shirt, the concerned voice, the waves, the sun, the gulls. it is all so tentative and so almost-not-form-at-all that it is painful, but like a taste on the tongue that we can not quite determine or a sound on the air we can not name, we lean in closer to decipher, to understand, to hold for a fleeting moment.

    this is a very beautiful poem. i write these words and they seem empty to me but are meant as tenderly as the day begins and ends.


    1. erin: perhaps we create nothing, but we are the gossamer web that draws things together. yes, i think that is true ... we are the weave of connections and perceptions that join the disparate ... love :-))))


  4. I love eavesdropping on your letter to Erin :).

    The specificity (of voice and detail) is what works so well for me.

    1. Hannah: there was a time when i would have tried to avoid specificity, i think ... but now it is all that matters ....

      thank you for eavesdropping :-) that's mostly what poetry is, one way or another, isn't it?


  5. A beautiful, gentle poem. I can hear your voice in my head while reading it, softly and melodically. :)

  6. Marion: thank you for hearing :-) (and for hearing)


  7. i have kept coming back to this letter-poem ever since i read it, in my mind, in the night, it keeps filling me with sweet music. even her name - erin - sounds _right_, i have always loved it but here it has become something like a sacred bell call, a chime... and that ending, the terrible "could almost be but is not", and the tender, serene acceptance of it all, the ungraspable yet real, bodily real grace...

    1. Roxana: i think perhaps only the ungraspable is truly real ... everything i can touch or understand is only my imagination :-)