Somewhere at Sea
Somewhere at sea the currents shifted and
As they rolled past the coast, removed the sand.
The sideways waves deposited instead
More recent, larger figures of the dead,
Unground but grinding in wave carousels -
A thundering tumult of broken shells.
They weren't sand yet, just rolled round on their way,
Miles of them, millions of them, white and gray.
And when we waded in the tumbling foam
Its roar and hush kept calling us back home
To join that great league of forgetfulness
Again, full fathom five and motionless
Except where water blindly carry us,
Like coral, scallop, clam and nautilus
Remains, sea-changed, swirled, strange and spirits sealed.
One wave's slow end knocked my boy down. I kneeled
And picked him up, we laughed, then ran like mad
Back up that charnel house, alive and glad
To be alive. And why should death seem right
Just because its ruins reflect more light?
Each drop of ocean holds vitality
That wanders shining in the mind's dark eye.
The sun was setting and the waves churned on.
Shell will mill shell until all shells are gone.
Still, on my desk now stands a wild, curved stone,
Four inches tall, to contemplate alone.
It swirled up randomly into my hands
To save from the museum of the sands,
And there is nothing it cannot refute,
current-born, storm-tossed, tide-polished: mute.
David Rothman is director of the Poetry Concentration with an emphasis on verse-craft in the Low Residency MFA at Western State Colorado University. He has three books currently in press: two volumes of poems, Part of the Darkness (Entasis) and Go Big (Red Hen) along with a volume of essays about life in the mountains and mountain towns, Living the Life (Conundrum). He also teaches at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Lighthouse Writers Workshop of Denver, and Denver University. He lives in Boulder.