This week we’re visiting the coast, that vibrant boundary zone, or ecotone, that has proved as intensely alive imaginatively as it has ecologically. Rachel Carson reminds us that ‘the edge of the sea remains an elusive and indefinable boundary’. At once immense yet intimate, hypnotic yet reviving, isolating yet exposing, the coast is a place complex contradictions. In new poems here from Anthony Wilson, Matt Howard, Stephen Siperstein and Fred Pollack we find four novel ways of exploring the many faces of the water’s edge.
by Anthony Wilson
after Terry Frost, for Kate Brindley
ooooooooooooooooooooooooo soft slap
oooooooooooooooooooooooooooo blue lap
ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo salt flap
ooooooooooooooo of water
oooooooooooo on wood
ooooooooo on water
oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo cold sea
oooooooooooooooooooooo old boat
oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo the salt slap
ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo wave tap
oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo blue map
ooooooooooooooooo new gap
oooooooooooooooooooooo of morning
by Matt Howard
You surface on a pillow of salt water,
the squall of your breath swirls,
an Atlantic gyre in a shell –
distance and its echo.
Already you have risen through fathoms,
innumerable leagues of scurvy hours,
with teeth loose in their rigging,
your lips cracked and unstaunched;
now the jaundiced moon is in its poorest quarter.
You are clear of the inclemency of sleep.
The North Star wavers through the window,
the memory of its bearing like a buoy,
a legacy of brightness,
insisting through the years’ latitudes:
Hold this one course, follow me.
ALL ALONG THE PACIFIC COAST
by Stephen Siperstein
The sea stars are rotting.
Thousands of them, maybe millions
Losing pieces of themselves to a world
Where the invisible flings the visible
Like a small wind shorn craft.
Sometimes beside a dark pool
We kneel, try to count the bodies—
Yellows, purples, greens—before they melt
Into grey chum. Sometimes we turn
Away; sometimes we bargain.
I am told that though most stars die
On occasion the young ones fight back
Against their cells’ own wasting. I am told,
And half-believe, that some can grow their limbs
Again and again, and again and again
Watch them crawl off
THE FORGOTTEN SEA
by Fred Pollack
oooIt isn’t abandoned – only
the humans have stepped aside for a moment,
ooowhich lasts. Only a moment
ago, little brown soldiers
ooowere shooting little brown people almost with
ooopolite elaborate pleas: all gone, now.
Behind the dunes.
Containers wait on docks like thick hyphens.
oooTwo-story jetliners, blue as sky and sea,
relax on runways
oooin sight of the sea, embodying
power and flight and deals and sex and perfection.
oooAn oil rig admires its reflection.
Fins break the water.
oooDry palm fronds make a noise like snow.
Monkeys and birds spend
ooothe afternoon reproving some infraction.
The people I’m sure will return in a moment,
ooowhich lasts. I walk the shoreline
unanxious that they will come back or won’t,
ooothat the crystal silence
will break – it’s more plastic,
ooothat rot will spread
through the hut, blight over the fruit, toxic bloom
oooin the ocean. Tankers, freighters and pirates
even now make their way
oooamong Rio and Capetown, Long Beach, Singapore.
The world, cramped and fretful,
ooocan easily miss
a part of itself. How often, writing a
ooopoem or merely living, does one
misplace entire themes, vital images;
ooowhy shouldn’t the system at large be as forgetful?
The monkeys and the wind drop coconuts
oooI paint with amusing faces
and arrange on shelves.
oooSea-nymphs deliver driftwood, which I sculpt.
Beer on ice, shutter raised,
ooopayoffs ready, spider-eggs riding
on filaments, the jetstream between continents,
oooI await the tourists and the tide.
Stephen Siperstein is a PhD candidate in the Department of English at the University of Oregon where he is completing his dissertation on climate change narratives in U.S. environmental literature and culture. His poetry has appeared in saltfront, Poecology, ISLE, and elsewhere, and he is currently editing a pedagogical volume, Teaching Climate Change in the Humanities, forthcoming from Routledge. He also is co-director of The Climate Stories Project, an online forum for sharing personal stories about climate change.
Fred Pollack is the author of two book-length narrative poems, The Adventure and Happiness, both published by Story Line Press. Has appeared in Hudson Review, Salmagundi, Poetry Salzburg Review, Die Gazette (Munich), The Fish Anthology(Ireland), Representations, Magma (UK), Bateau, Fulcrum, Chiron Review, etc. Online, poems have appeared inBig Bridge, Hamilton Stone Review, Diagram, BlazeVox, The New Hampshire Review, Mudlark, etc. Recent Web publications in Occupoetry, Faircloth Review, Camel Saloon, Kalkion, Gap Toothed Madness, Hark (UK),. Adjunct professor creative writing George Washington University.