Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Blue odour of iodine

Strange and complicated morning. A skim of ice
calms the sea; sudden colour scours your eyes.
Bright light white heat flood the house. 
Throw open the windows! Fling wide the door!
Flash of kingfisher wing and peaked blue crest
(you're back! we're so glad to see you!). Sparrows sing.

Scent of---    open water. Salt, of course. Blue
odour of iodine, knotted rotting bladderwrack,
sunwarmed grey stone steeped in cold mud:
each element bound to its proximate. Life
on the strand, lived at an edge, wind-tumbled,
cloud-driven. Unstable. Chance-riven.
What peculiar mercy makes us forget that
with heat, comes fog?

I am thinking of Boston this morning, and the two explosions at the marathon finish line yesterday. (Who in North America isn't riveted and horrified by such wreckage of runners and their families and friends?) But to write a poem about that seems impossible.  I judged a poetry competition once not long after 9/11, and the poems that commemorated that event were, without exception, awful. Mawkish versions of catastrophe miniaturized in dancing rhyme. An occasion for falling flat on your face, poetically speaking.  Still, as I finished this poem I realized something about yesterday's news was working me--that what one finds at the edge of a sudden change is not a clash of civilisations (that appalling phrase and idea authored by Samuel Huntington), but one thing slowly shifting into another, "each element bound to its proximate." And this too, of course: what draws us--heat, say, or celebratory events full of oblivious affluence, also draws other things we think we love far less, like fog--or anger and targeted destruction. We forget at our own peril our own angers, our own targets, how closely interleaved rage and righteousness are.

Pictures, more land-weaves and tumbling structures, natural and not, taken on Nova Scotia's Eastern Shore.

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