I. Beyond the sea wall, the song
Men in black: pall bearers bearing themselves
to the edge of the grey sea
Girls and boys clutching white plastic bags
clearing the coastline, collecting
stuff from the sands
The shrill song of gulls on the rocks, Lover's Point
picked from the jagged coastline
like shell or stone
Labeled and dropped into a pocket
turned over in the hand
Alone in this seaside crowd of divers, dreamers
clawing at words for a place
along this wall I-
Waist deep in the water now the masked men
hide themselves from the face of the faceless sea
from the merciless teacher diving in
for intimate surgery.
I cannot go where I would be lost.
She says, 'You have to get down on your stomach,
you have to try a little bit, to work.'
The woman says to men- the teacher says-
And from Canada to Mexico, children clear beaches
uncover the sand, reveal maps
to buried treasures or home
'I would like you to stay on the surface,' the teacher says,
'Go deeply down slowly.' The men are eager to go
deeply down quickly.
The cypress waves to fishing boats and
the small boy waves to mother
who teaches men the fine art of sinking.
Teach me, who remembers to forget nothing
of what we sealed that night one hundred steps
from here. Hermes has drowned.
I sink into a deeper sleep than where dreams dive
I lower my own coffin to the black ocean floor
I hear the Sirens, the song
but I hear no music.
II. Beyond this point, monsters
In the depths of the depths of a dream
refracted images mirror our dead gods
and the stories we tell our children
of sea-faring men without women
falling off the edge of the watery earth
suddenly frighten us too: the truth
that brittle boat
shows nothing is really taken from these beaches
that does not wish to go.
III. 'A groove, a rut, a grave, an abyss- the only difference is depth'
Children of light wake early, run to the shore, laugh in the fog
and the waves applaud them, swirling and spiraling into dance.
As I chip away at the wall
as my thick teeth grind grains of sand
as my eyes, urns for the dust of the ancients
bleed wind, contain more than what they see
and as my ear pressed to the mouth of the shell
hears the echo of the voice of reason
divers in funereal black sing the sea
One slender child, a reed bent by the wind and tossed by whim
branch and blossom on its knees
picking pieces of seal-strangling plastic from the littered sand
sings the sea
Walls of sea mountain, chaparral and black sage
live oak strangling slowly Monterey pine steals light
from Pacific madrone
Nature knows no battle, only flux-
huckleberry, blackberry, yarrow and brown-eyed buckwheat
sing the sea
Above a stand of pines the white-tailed kite soars
the kestrel, the falcon, the hawk
through the language of wind and needles
the pigeon and dove and swift
all sing the sea as lightly as moan
the jays and crows and squawk of salt-gorged gulls
as on the tip of tree a warbler drops
a song to sing the sea.
IV. returning to harbor
To crawl belly to the floor to my bed
and to the depth of the dream
to sea-black sands
where kelp wraps my legs like knotted sheets
where you breathe waves upon my naked back
where the day I spent by the sea, remembering
all I came to forget, sinking deeply down the edge of earth
where ships drift, where sense is portal to memory
where mapmakers doodle dragons . . .
To dream it all back again
a mute man, singing
to dream it all back and sing the sea.
When I rise I rummage through the white bag by the bed
find the shell whose center cradles the song- place it to my ear, listen
and remember nothing.