Christopher Buckley

Country: United States
Language(s): English

Catechism of the Sea

With a premonition of light the sea sang. – Octavio Paz
In those days, we accepted the spindrift
   from the breakers, the glitter

On the high wings of birds as the bright
   evidence of a life everlasting.

Corroboration arrives in the alliteration
   of waves, a tender star or two

Clinging to the tassel-ends of heaven,
   a cloud, light as our paper souls,

Cleaned and pressed like a Sunday suit. We were
   given to the immaculate sands

The incomparable charity of the sky,
   and in autumn, only minor

Disruptions of dust spun up at street corners,
   the glint from mica and the foil

Of gum wrappers causing us to momentarily
   close our eyes—as close as we came

To death, unrecognized there or in the storm
   troughs spiking a slate-dark sea.

Our hearts were white as our uniform shirts,
   as the wild fields of alyssum,

And I learned nothing of set theory and equations
   scrawled across the blackboards

Was sent out to clap erasers, returning with the unequal
   properties of silence and covered

In a powdered veil of chalk, happily, for years, taken
   as I was with the wobbly grandeur

Of the blue. Now, so much lost, so much taken away
   with the absolute gravity, grind

Spin and brine of every invisible law, phrases
   fly out the window to no one,

More darkness recited among the stars.
   whatever I’ve been talking about

No longer seems to be the point—the ocean
   can’t breathe, the revisions

Of the past will never save us now. It’s all
   a fog inside me, refusing to burn off,

To offer up the rote responses to the choruses
   of salt testifying to nothing,

The nonsense it all comes to like the first
   day of summer and school reports

For science torn from my binder and tossed
   onto the winds, so help me.

Now alone, I see the clouds under sail,
   embarking out there for a port

Where the air ends, where all that waits
   for us is the heavy ringing of

The sea’s dull bells. Pick any five men
   mumbling in their coast, drifting

On the cliff-side benches, an on-shore breeze
   at their unmetaphysical throats

And see how many words of allegiance or joy
   can be squeezed out at this late date.

Make something of the one palm tree whose green
   fronds are comparatively glorious

And resist the graceless rip and under-tow—
   it’s just that way with God.