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Seascape with Distant Coast circa 1840 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851
The sea gossips all day
at the green back door,
“I have come from Dunkirk,
I have come from Marseilles
and Dieppe.”
Death is half as cold as
that ocean there.
We do not swim but run in and out
with childish shouts and chilling spray.
The sea keeps talking all day,
“I was with Jason,
I shook hands with Homer.”
Or, other times, more silently it
trembles in the night and deposits
traces of the dead, a battered boot or
bow plank.
By the moon we sit on a stone
that’s as cold as the moon on
a beach more empty and
while you sleep
behind the green safe door
I watch them come —
those sailors from the old wars
up into the dark
with hollow eyes and broken arms.
In the morning the gulls go keeling
calling to the ocean while
we prepare breakfast.

And the sea? The sea is shouting,
“I have come from Rome,
I have come from Cathay.”

Ian David Arlett
painting: Seascape with Distant Coast circa 1840 by J. M. W. Turner 1775-1851


Roars at the evening, roars at the edge,
breeds beneath its surface, the endless waves
reflections of those who dwell beneath.

Stars wiggle in the meander of its ripples,
foam collects at its breach, its point of surrender,
but do not swim, do not dive

beneath its waves, comfortable swimmer still gripped
by daytime bravery. This ocean is alive, it is different;
you swam when it slept, when you were only a dream.

As you sleep, the ocean swims beneath your dreams,
do not mistake your easy snore for the siren
whisper of the ocean upon the shore.

You are flesh, naked and alone. Great creatures
from prehistoric times drift by unnoticed, their immensity
too much for your senses; predators wait to tear at you,

your shield, your confidence, does not matter. You are alone.
You will not win. You will be swept away, unknown, unnoticed,
for you leapt at night into the mouth of the sea.

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