01 January 2009

John Hollander

[from John Hollander's Movie Going, and Other Poems, Atheneum, 1962]

Off Marblehead

A woeful silence, following in our wash,
fills the thick, fearful roominess, blanketing
      bird noise and ocean splash; thus always
           soundlessly, rounding the point we go

gliding by dippy, quizzical cormorants.
One black maneuver moving them all at once,
      they turn their beaks to windward then, and,
           snubbing the gulls on the rocks behind them,

point, black, a gang of needles against the gray
dial sky, as if some knowledge, some certainty
      could now be read therefrom. And if we
           feel that the meter may melt, those thin necks

droop, numbers vanish from the horizon when
we turn our heads to scribble the reading down
      on salty, curled, dried pages, it is
            merely our wearied belief, our strained and

ruining grasp of what we assume, that blurs
our eyes and blears the scene that surrounds us: tears
      of spray, the long luff's reflex flapping,
            crazy with pain, and the clenching sheet,

and, looming up, Great Misery (Named for whose?
When?) Island. Groaning, jangling in irons, crews
      of gulls still man a rolling buoy not
           marked on our charts. Overhead, the light

(impartial, general, urging of no new course)
spares no approving brightening for the sparse
      and sorry gains of one we hold to
           now, ever doubting our memory. But

no matter -- whether running before the wind
away for home, or beating against the end
      of patience, towards its coastline, still the
           movement is foolishly close to one of

flight, the thick, oily clouds undissolving, crowds
of sea birds, senseless, shrill, unappeased, no boats
      about, and, out to sea, a sickening,
           desperate stretch of unending dark.

Movie-Going, and Other Poems

No comments:

Post a Comment