A chair under one arm,
a desktop under the other,
the same Smith-Corona
on my back I even now batter
words into visibility with,
I would walk miles,
assemble my writing stall,
type all day, many sheets
of prose and verse all blown
away, while herring gulls
and once a sightseeing plane
turned overhead. The lean-
to of driftwood that thirty-three-and-a-third years back
I put up on this spot
leans all the wav down,
all its driftwood re-drifts.
Spray jumps and blows.
A few gulls fly that way,
a few this. A single duck
whettles out to sea
in straight flight—solitary vector
of purpose. As for the Quonset hut
I broke into without breaking it
when the storms came, it too
has gone, swept out, burned up,
buried under, nobody knows, Too
bad. But for me not all
that bad. For of the four
possibilities—from me-and-itstill-here to it-and-me-both-gone, this one, me-hereit-gone, is second best,
and will do, for me, for now.
But I wanted it still to be here.
I wanted to sit at the table
and look up and see the sea spray
and beach grass happy together.
I wanted to remember the details:
the dingy, sprouted potatoes,
the Portuguese bread, the Bokar coffee,
the dyed oranges far from home,
the water tasting of decayed aluminum,
the kerosene stench. The front
steps where I sat and heard
the excitement that comes into sand,
the elation into the poverty grass,
when the wind rises. In a letter
which cast itself down in General
Delivery, Provincetown, my friend
and mentor warned, “Don’t lose
all touch with humankind.” One day
while all around gulls whistled
their thin, exhausted screams,
the wind put a sudden sheen
or flatness like spiritual quietness
across the water. Now two
waves of the North Atlantic
roll in side by side,
converge, ripple into one
and rush up the beach—making me
jump back—and vanish
under white bubbles all suddenly
popping away at once. Here
waves slap not in time
but in evanescence, a rhythmless medium.
Mere comings, mere goings. Though now
there’s somewhat less coming
in the comings and more
going in the goings. Between
the two straggles only
such an indicated boundary
as the sea lets the moon spell and die out
between world and world,
a wandering thread solitary walkers
follow along a beach, cross
and re-cross, spinning it
with their tracks all the way
into disappearance. So you see,
to reach the past is easy. A snap.
A snap of the sea and a third of a century
passes. All nothing. Or all all,
if that sounds more faithful. But anyway
all gone. The work of
whoziwhatzit—Zeit . . . Zman . . . Chas. . .
whatever . . .Whichever
you strike with the desperate tongue
gives a deadened sound, as though
the thing itself were fake; or unspeakable.