Water and Sustenance

Image: 'Living Close to the Water,' by Andrew Smith on Flickr

[Image: “Living Close to the Water,” by Andrew Smith. (Original on Flickr; used here under a Creative Commons license — thank you!)]

From whiskey river:

Despite everything, we are good people, who can hardly live in this world that continues almost entirely at our expense.

The best thing is to keep on moving arms and legs, and watch the waves, almost as though moving forward.

In this way, despair turns quickly over to happiness, and back to despair again.

And, if you reach the beach, walk back across it like everything is fine, toward your family who would not like to see the abyss you have just swum over.

(Joanna Walsh [source])


The next morning I shall get up at dawn. I shall let myself out by the kitchen door. I shall walk on the moor. I shall see the swallow skim the grass. I shall throw myself on a bank by the river and watch the fish slip in and out among the reeds. The palms of my hands will be printed with pine-needles. I shall there unfold and take out whatever it is I have made here; something hard. For something has grown in me here, through the winters and summers, on staircases, in bedrooms… Then my freedom will unfurl, and all these restrictions that wrinkle and shrivel — hours and order and discipline, and being here and there exactly at the right moment — will crack asunder.

(Virginia Woolf [source])


At Least

I want to get up early one more morning,
before sunrise. Before the birds, even.
I want to throw cold water on my face
and be at my work table
when the sky lightens and smoke
begins to rise from the chimneys
of the other houses.
I want to see the waves break
on this rocky beach, not just hear them
break as I did all night in my sleep.
I want to see again the ships
that pass through the Strait from every
seafaring country in the world—
old, dirty freighters just barely moving along,
and the swift new cargo vessels
painted every colour under the sun
that cut the water as they pass
I want to keep an eye out for them.
And for the little boat that plies
the water between the ships
and the pilot station near the lighthouse.
I want to see them take a man off the ship
and put another up on board.
I want to spend the day watching this happen
and reach my own conclusions.
I hate to seem greedy—I have so much
to be thankful for already.
But I want to get up early one more morning, at least.
And go to my place with some coffee and wait.
Just wait, to see what’s going to happen.

(Raymond Carver [source])

Not from whiskey river:

The Pull of Love

One cold day a bearskin was floating down the river.
I said to a man who had no clothes,
“Jump in and pull it out.”

But the bearskin was a live bear,
and the man who jumped in so eagerly
was caught in the clutches of what he went to grab.

“Let go of it,” I said, “Fighting won’t get you anywhere.”

“Let go of it? This coat won’t let go of me!”

Silence. Just a hint. Who needs volumes of stories?

(Rumi [source])


The Shore

So the tide forgets, as morning
Grows too far delivered, as the bowls
Of rock and wood run dry.
What is left seems pearled and lit,
As those cases
Of the museum stood lit
With milk jade, rows of opaque vases
Streaked with orange and yellow smoke.
You found a lavender boat, a single
Figure poling upstream, baskets
Of pale fish wedged between his legs.
Today, the debris of winter
Stands stacked against the walls,
The coils of kelp lie scattered
Across the floor. The oil fire
Smokes. You turn down the lantern
Hung on its nail. Outside,
The boats aligned like sentinels.
Here beside the blue depot, walking
The pier, you can see the way
The shore
Approximates the dream, how distances
Repeat their deaths
Above these tables and panes of water—
As climbing the hills above
The harbor, up to the lupine drifting
Among the lichen-masked pines,
The night is pocked with lamps lit
On every boat offshore,
Galleries of floating stars. Below,
On its narrow tracks shelved
Into the cliff’s face,
The train begins its slide down
To the warehouses by the harbor. Loaded
With diesel, coal, paychecks, whiskey,
Bedsheets, slabs of ice—for the fish,
For the men. You lean on my arm,
As once
I watched you lean at the window;
The bookstalls below stretched a mile
To the quay, the afternoon crowd
Picking over the novels and histories.
You walked out as you walked out last
Night, onto the stone porch. Dusk
Reddened the walls, the winds sliced
Off the reefs. The vines of the gourds
Shook on their lattice. You talked
About that night you stood
Behind the black pane of the French
Window, watching my father read some long
Of a famous voyager’s book. You hated
That voice filling the room,
Its light. So tonight we make a soft
Parenthesis upon the sand’s black bed.
In that dream we share, there is
One shore, where we look out upon nothing
And the sea our whole lives;
Until turning from those waves, we find
One shore, where we look out upon nothing
And the earth our whole lives.
Where what is left between shore and sky
Is traced in the vague wake of
(The stars, the sandpipers whistling)
What we forgive. If you wake soon, wake me.

(David St. John [source])


Like the sea, we are always in motion. The waves loom in our dreams and in our nightmares through all of time, their rhythms pulsing through us. They move across a faint horizon, the rush of love and the surge of grief, the respite of peace and then fear again, the heart that beats and then lies still, the rise and fall and rise and fall of all of it, the incoming and the outgoing, the infinite procession of life. And the ocean wraps the earth, a reminder. The mysteries come forward in waves.

(Susan Casey [source])

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