Friday, August 15

The Drowning Poet

The drowning poet hours before he drowned
Had whirlpool eyes, salt at his wrists, and wore
A watery emphasis. The sea was aware
As flowers at the bedside of a wound
Of an imminent responsibility
And lay like a magnet beside him the blue day long
Ambiguous as a lung.

He watched the divers learn an element
Familiar as, to the musician, scales,
Where to swim is a progression of long vowels,
A communication never to be sought
being itself all searching: certain as pearls,
Simple as rocks in sun, a happiness
Bound up with happenings.

To drown was the perfection of technique,
The word containing its own sense, like Time;
And turning to the sea he entered it
As one might speak of poems in a poem
Or at the crisis in the sonata quote
Five-finger exercises: a compliment
to all accomplishment.

-- James Merrill

James Merrill