Inspired by the exhibition of paintings by Bruce Killeen
(Sonnets of the Sea)
I: Metaphorical Distance
Out at farthest focus, drifting, peaceful:
Green ladled with mauve like a healing bruise.
Light lies heavy on the horizon; chooses
To lean its languid body westward. The pull
Of the rolling planet quickens, and the full,
Swelling, murmurous mass of the tide looses
The bonds of gravity, dropping the deep, pellucid,
Purpleness of light gracefully into the ocean’s well.
Dipping my toe into the water, gasping
At the cold, desiring to go deeper and far,
I stare outward along the long divide
Of the horizon; the waves on the sand rasping
At the edge of the land, my feet, my heart:
Like this sea-coloured bruise I am trying to hide.
Where will you go from here? You’ve measured exactly
The angle of sunlight that, striking the cloud layer,
Refracts through the prism of the horizon, neat and square,
A thousand shades of aquamarine; laying them delicately
End to end along the proper horizontal, modestly
Masked with shadow. With dividers and set square
You’ve drawn the perfect perpendicular, straight and set fair
To indicate the strict statistical limits of visual accuracy.
But how can you calculate clearly, precisely,
The creeping numbness of toes, cormorants, the stark
Face-slap of salt, the way the selkies sing?
Or the kick of the tiller against your wrist, turning nicely
Into the wind? Formal analysis misses the mark:
The poet is in this landscape. That changes everything.
Why is a sonnet like the sea? For one,
When you start to search it recedes from you,
Seeping away towards the distant, blue
Hazy hover of light on the horizon.
Its going reveals deep clefts, exposed to the sun:
Vulnerable. Laid open to the view
Of the inner eye: arid fields of conflict; overdue
Reminders of other projects, left undone.
On a moment, while your back is turned: the change.
Moving effortlessly with the moon’s quiet pull,
Thought washes back, inescapable.
The mind’s tide rises. Words rearrange
Themselves. The ocean inspires: limpid, brimful
Of creativity. Not to write would be intolerable.
Sunlight on the bay:
Golden promise of summer
Holds rain in its lap.
Flow from the midnight pen of
My garden poet.