09 September 2012

Marianne Moore

[from Marianne Moore's The Poems of Marianne Moore, ed. Grace Schulman, Viking, 2003]

A Grave

Man looking into the sea,
taking the view from those who have as much right to it as you have
      to it yourself,
it is human nature to stand in the middle of a thing,
but you cannot stand in the middle of this;
the sea has nothing to give but a well excavated grave.
The firs stand in a procession, each with an emerald turkey foot
      at the top,
reserved as their contours, saying nothing;
repression, however, is not the most obvious characteristic of the
the sea is a collector, quick to return a rapacious look.
There are others besides you who have work that look —
whose expression is no longer a protest; the fish no longer
      investigate them
for their bones have not lasted:
men lower nets, unconscious of the fact that they are desecrating
      a grave,
and row quickly away — the blades of the oars
moving together like the feet of water-spiders as if there were no
      such thing as death.
The wrinkles progress among themselves in a phalanx — beautiful
      under networks of foam,
and fade breathlessly while the sea rustles in and out of the seaweed;
the birds swim through the air at top speed, emitting catcalls as
      heretofore —
the tortoise-shell scourges about the feet of cliffs, in motion beneath
and the ocean, under the pulsation of lighthouses and noise of
advances as usual, looking as if it were not that ocean in which
      dropped things are bound to sink —
in which if they turn and twist, it is neither with volition nor

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