Somewhere in the Sea
It’s easy to get turned around, at one end the walled city that needed to be taught a lesson, at the other the home we left in order to go away, as if satisfying a need to satisfy a need. In between, water and ships, wind that steers for a while then disappears, the emptiness that never fills up, scaled up as if seen under a microscope. The spaces aren’t numbered—navigation is just this combination of desire and incapacity. It’s easy to lose your place, it’s embarrassing, graceless; if the water is supposed to clean up after us, if it’s washing up, it’s going to take time. When we pass other boats, we stop to talk, I almost said pull over, but it’s not really an interruption. Unfolding lounge chairs, putting on our comfortable slippers, we sit together side by side, holding onto our knees, talking about where we’ve been and where we’d like to go. Never where we are. It’s not a confession, there’s no cause for one—we only remember the stories we want others to know about us. In one we instruct a whole city, in another they forget never to accept a gift from strangers. In another, personal valor combines with some excusable weakness, while twisted threads of smoke are sewn into the air. There’s a lot of repetition, verbatim, taking turns, one after the other, exchanging words, we end up with some of theirs, and they end up with some of ours. Later we drift apart, the wave bodies collapsing, sagging in the center like cupped hands—sometimes I think we take with us part of what we think we’re leaving, stuck in the wind, in the wind in the sails, in the spinning wheels, in the wheels of the boats. The movements are small, contradictory, adding up to nothing, and when the waves rise, we slip off and travel in the trough. Behind us, the smoking city we pulled down for educational purposes. If we’re depending on the water to wipe it away, to take us away, lifting us away from where we are like a story torn from its bindings, it’s not very dependable. Closed in and dislodged, like a birdcage inside a moving van. It’s an uncomfortable position to be in.
It’s the heart that sees, peering around like a miner’s light or headlamp, a blue flame burning inside while the swollen stars wheel around on swirling axles spinning like the rinse cycle, and the black cypresses press their prickly tips into the nerves of the air! Every landscape is a jungle full of bladelike leaves, palisades of trees, strange cupped flowers on homemade stems, people and animals caught in the undergrowth of the overgrowth, passive, stiffening with the awkwardness of their uncertainty. They don’t turn around, they don’t look up, or down, they don’t look away, they have secrets that need to be revealed, asking politely, some of them, begging, some of them—do you think the desperation is present in the vegetation? In Matisse’s space the borders aren’t settled like a provision in a contract or a boundary that’s fixed except when neighbors decide to grab some space. Do you think he’s right? Cezanne’s is fractured like flint—what is the heart but the geometry of light and darkness, let’s say it brings them together even when they’re falling apart, it’s a mistake to think that everything is independent!
Peter Leight lives in Amherst, Massachusetts. He has previously published poems in Paris Review, Partisan Review, AGNI, Western Humanities Review, Cincinnati Review, Seneca Review, The Southampton Review, Cimarron, Hubbub, and other magazines.