Saturday, October 31, 2020

The Sea

Remaining with Nature, I next turned my attention to that wonderful but often mysterious part of it in my poem The Sea. As you will see, wrapped up in this piece is a figure who has been of central importance to me in my life, my Dad! 

Due to his own vicissitudes growing up in the world, dad sometimes got a bit grumpy about stuff when he was younger, though it is one of those strange mixed blessings for both of us that in supporting me through my illness he softened immeasurably such that he is much more chilled now!

What I wanted to do here was capture that switch and confusion we sometimes feel when anyone (it doesn't have to be a parent, it could be a sibling, friend, colleague even) shows us that different side to their character through getting stressed out, and I felt the sea depicted this very well with its calm, welcoming ripples which could be turned by stormy weather into ferocious tides. 

And so I dedicate this poem to my dad, the man who helped me shape these early poems into that 2004 collection and who has always supported my writing endeavour, who overcame much in his own childhood to provide for, nurture and love his own family...  

Shimmering, glistening, gold and green,

My sea rises and falls.
Harbouring life of an obsolete kind
From the dawn of the world to the end of all time,
Its secrets lie quiet as those crater depths
Which trudge and trench this earth.
Sometimes I walk amongst the rocks,
Breathing the smell of the tide,
And I wander back to a memory of hate
When I failed to explain how I felt.
Then I walk, run, swim to a rope, and holding tight
Let the swell ride beneath me, basking in ease,
No pressure, no strife, no stress, playing games in the surf,
Feeling joy in Nature's gift,
Knowing then that we are the sea, we are water,
A microcosm of our world. We are made of other lands,
Deserts, mountain, dale, but water makes us whole,
Surrounding, underlying, underpinning all we are,
Never leaving, always there, patient, humble, loving,
Slaying drought, scalding fire, ripping through the air,
Our faithful element, our friend in time of need.

How then can this same pal turn and bare its teeth,
Hissing itself into frenzy, shaking itself into wrath,
And unleash with such spiteful force
Primordial powers unmatched across the globe?
I suppose there needs wind,
But how that explains the need for tempestuous rage
Beggars my belief more than the thought that this sea, my sea,
Betrays those who live and work and love it.
Perhaps it seeks revenge, loathing us for spoiling, wasting, ruining its purity,
As the voice of my pedagogue speaks in mind that all the water
In all the world is stained. Yet why in those centuries gone,
Before we knew such filth, when the sea was fresh,
Did it still conspire to wreak havoc with life,
Tossing ships on rocks, freezing men where they bobbed,
Causing wilful destruction and dread?
No friend indeed, but a patriarch, close by bond, civil in course,
Distant and cold at will, letting us know our place, far, far below it,
Though like a child we look up, praise and revere its majesty,
And ambivalence strains our hearts. So tame, so fierce,
So kind, so cruel, my sea, my father sea.

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