Friday, April 07, 2006

Tasting salt

I'm thinking a lot about poems. About poems that I remember remembering. About the stinking hot afternoon in the portable classroom behind the library when Mr Lewis first read "Skunk Hour" out loud to us and something hard and sharp turned over in my mind. More on that later.
In the meantime I was stopped in my tracks by this, from Elizabeth Bishop (to whom, spookily, "Skunk Hour" was dedicated):
I have seen it over and over, the same sea, the same,
slightly, indifferently swinging above the stones,
icily free above the stones,
above the stones and then the world...

If you tasted it, it would first taste bitter,
then briny, then surely burn your tongue.
It is like what we imagine knowledge to be:
dark, salt, clear, moving, utterly free,
drawn from the cold hard mouth
of the world, derived from the rocky breasts
forever, flowing and drawn, and since
our knowledge is historical, flowing, and flown.

(From "At the Fishhouses" from The Complete Poems 1927-1979)

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