Believe it or not, the poem below is part of one of my final exams at graduate school. I have to write a paper discussing its theological implications. But I offer it to you simply as it arrived to me.
I don’t personally live in a boating family (kayaking is about our speed), but my town of Ipswich has five bridges crossing our river, and we live on part of the Great Salt Marsh (25,500 acres) which is fed by five rivers protected by the barrier island of Plum Island. Our specific river, like others, is a tidal river, so the lower part of it rises and falls several feet each day with the ocean tides, and salt water mixes with fresh.Much of the life of this town depends on the sea, such as the clammers and shellfish industry. And much of what is beautiful about our town is best seen from the waterways, looking back toward shore or out toward the horizon.
Many of my friends sail and will savor this poem …
by Pamela Smith
It’s the turquoise morning when sails hoist to wind
ideal in direction and knots, when piloting is the ease
of an oft-told family saga and the sighting
of the spa, the rest, the paradise long sought.
It’s a becalming, too, with plenty of foodstuffs,
a stillness with water that last, blessedly saltless,
sport on deck and dolphin laugh,
a pause without death or albatross.
It’s also the eye of wild storm, the wash
to an isle not unlike that of Prospero, Ariel, Caliban,
but this marooning is a spot that bears no human tracework in the sand,
just draft of turtle and tiny scratch of tern.
Then, after every ride and rescue,
it’s that slowing circle of return
to one known, rough, weathered dock,
to sighing anchorage and thick rope knot.
All in all … this poem is metaphorical. Its about sailing, but so much more. Ultimately it’s a meditation by the poet on going out and returning, and the love discovered throughout the voyage. There’s an imagery of abundance and privilege in this poem, and some adventuring. Of returning safe to harbor and back into relationship with a powerful and affirming love.
Personally, I have never been on such voyages. So its language of love is playful and beautiful, but ultimately unfamiliar to me. Which begs the question … if you were to write about finding love, knowing love, losing love, then returning to love … what images would feel familiar to you? What would resonate?
For a few moments today, be the poet of your own life. And just imagine … how would you tell the tale of that journey, that voyage?