A little sea
in the night
ran its inch of tide
about the bole of the peach tree,
came fawning to my door,
fell away.

Its small crests,
its ebb,
broke my sleep.

A little sea
was running in the desert.
It came in
under the edges of the breeze,
a true sea,
sharpening the air with salt.
filling hourly through the night.

It remembered white ships,
clippers out of China
freighted with tea and roses,
holding gales in their wings,
storms off the coast of fragrant Spain, snarling.

It hurled
against my walls
its gathering whips and drums,
dropped away,
its throat rattling with pebbles.

I got up,
opened my door
to this unbelievable sea.

My yard was lit by silent moonlight.
Parched grasshoppers chirrupped in the ditches.

But still the sea broke
on the beaches of my ears.

My skull was a shell
holding the noisy tides
pouring unseen over the desert.

A man is moon to his own sea—
he draws it after him,
like a dog it follows him
the days of his life.

All that night I heard the sea make
and ebb, a sea formed
of grains of remembered oceans,
fed by rains and rivers

of days I have finished with.
It carried old sticks in its mouth.
In the morning a tide’s detritus,
twigs, small round stones, a can,

lay in uneven lines
on the charred grass.

A hermit thrush sings for me
in dry arroyos its liquid note.
I have heard in the desert
unrecognised birds, charmers,

lift up their single whistles,
long separated, distant,
purified by distance, among
the grassless dunes.

I have thought them calling me.
I have heard the voices
of an invisible sea
whispering with boys’

voices, heard in its dry waves
the pattering of boys’ feet
through the built canyons of the past.
I have heard

such singing. The mocking-bird
has sung for me. Each day
the waters of that sea
are rising blindly to the full.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 6 Number 8, on page 39
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