Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Down On The Coast

Calm Day

Down on the Coast

Three ragged rocks in the bay of the heart
smoothed and seamed by the tailoring spray
now pressed flat as the long wave fades
the water stills, the tide splays
with all its fleery flotsam,
ambergris and driftwood caveats
pulled to deeper decay.

Eleven pouting lemons in a cobalt blue bowl,
secret and sullen as xanthic mollusks,
bitter suns curdling morning to fractions
piercing the tongue with soured satisfactions,
as if to say I told you so
but you just had to 
keep adding sugar.

In the dim gaslight of a half-sincere dream
the medium saw the house burn down, beam
by beam, red walls glow to nothing, saw drawn
in charcoal ectoplasm all the burnt debris--
daguerreotypes of she, of thee
wet framed in blackened ash, 
ruined before time for tea.

Tonight I dream your absinthe aftertaste
gulping loss, coughing up your waste
choking on the acrid gnosis
of each indifferent clumsy phasing
in and out, fractured in either placing,
making and unmaking 
the mask of a sailor's face.

Three rocks in the bay of the heart;
name them as you please or will, so
smoothed and seamed in glinting calm,
blue-ruffled in a bay without a mark;
still mirrors lit by day that in the dark
will founder any cockswain lost at sea
who seeks to come to anchor in that lee.

~May 2012
revised December 2015

Reposted for  real toads

Nothing to do with the holidays, just an old wash of words as the pale winter sun enters Capricorn.

Image: I've once again borrowed the work of my friend Petteri Sulonen. Thanks, Petteri, as always for the use of this shot:


  1. Your skill at painting pictures with words leaves my brain lightening struck and my tongue tied. Another fabulous piece that demands to be read aloud and over and over. Thank you!

  2. Gorgegous. The rhythm in this is as relentless as the sea. It was a joy to read aloud.

  3. You just had to keep adding sugar . . . I love that.

  4. Every now and again, a line from a piece of writing writes itself on the inner walls of my skull... it sets roots and continues to grow... Your "Eleven pouting lemons in a cobalt blue bowl" feel that way. I see all so bright, taste the pout, feel the tartness...

  5. Beautiful music here that sounds like water hitting rocks, that type of cadence--I am too tired to make a coherent comment but of course I like the sugar line--all the lines, but the end is so interesting to me--the still at the end I think is not a verb yet I keep reading it as stilling the mirrors that founder the cockswain, though I think it is the rocks that are still mirrors and that they will founder the cockswain--still (ha) really love that ambiguity as honestly I think mirrors may well be more dangerous than rocks sometimes. I will come back to make a more sensible comment when I am not quite so tired!

    Ps- the time for tea takes me to Eliot and the endless delaying signified by Profrock's way of living--time for you and time for me and time yet for a hundred indecisions and for a hundred visions and revisions before the taking of a toast and tea-- seems as if time caught up with this particular decider--then the absinthe takes me to something more Baudelaire-like--which I think is accurate, though I am very susceptible to this kind of layering right now. k.

  6. I have to go eat, and will be back to comment more fully later, but I just have to say right now that your second stanza is just marvelous. I stopped there to save the rest!

  7. Reading again-- such interesting jumps-- the rocks to lemons-- then to burning house -- he/she and then to rocks and of course all of the heart-- the lemons feel to me like pieces of a still life with oysters-- I don't mean to sound facetious-- for you say mollusks-- and I wonder now whether they at not months-- the pouting moons of the year that we dilute and dilute and dilute with our wish for sweetness-- forgive me if I am off the mark-- there's a surrealism in this part-- not so much in the rocks of the heart-- but in this movement between verses that works very well but is very personal nonetheless. ( yet works.). K.

    1. Really good eye, k--yes they were months. Sullen ones. Thanks so much for your really attentive and also intuitive reading. Hope work is not too fraught.

  8. I can picture that ending. I love it when you rhyme, and this is no exception.

  9. I admire the way you have allowed your subject matter to grow from the three rocks, expand is perhaps the better word, and then returned to it again. As Magaly points out, there are several truly memorable images and lines.

  10. Oh, I am so jealous. I can't rhyme on a good day and to create such a piece as this and do it with rhyme is..well...damn good! "Eleven pouting lemons in a cobalt blue bowl" I love that image.

  11. Congrats for ditching Santy Claws to season more dimly, deeply here -- The first three stanzas present such abrupt, sharp and independent turns they could be foundering rocks themselves -- each an approach to the heart and a foundering at its lee. Desire brings the speaker there, ever met by a fateful turning -- by the other, by the heart's own troping, maybe both. ("Daguerreotypes of she, of thee") What is reveled, what is revealed, what is drowned there? The poem ends placidly, leaves the question behind, assured that the rocky setup "will founder any cockswain lost at sea." Song of the sea-witch, perhaps. Whatever the case, it's marvelously engineered and devilshly enginned.

    1. What is reveled is so seldom what is revealed, indeed--a generous and feeling reading, B--many thanks.

  12. Rhyme? Who said rhyme? I think it's marvelous when upon first read, I don't even notice you're rhyming! So well done. And I of course, love your interjection about just keep adding sugar. What a commentary.

  13. That second stanza is all kinds of good, the imagery is so tangent and palpable:
    "bitter suns curdling morning to fractions
    piercing the tongue with soured satisfactions,"
    and the meter and beat is so well played it has a subtlety which almost hums in the background as the stories develop around it. Excellent write

  14. I've been down on the coast three times this week: once to move out from a girlfriend turned stone, once from a son whose car was ill stolen, and last simply because the season is done.

    And I'll return *here* later, to swim again. ~

    1. Sounds like you may have found those three rocks--best wishes for you to navigate them as best you can--day is easier and night is dangerouser.


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats