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Syndic Literary Journal

At Sea

Narrated by Bill Wolak

New Jersey


(for Pablo Neruda)

The sea through the trees



The dark foreground

a stone wall

with lichen

An old salt

sits staring out

at the sea

A wind sways the palms


Another day prepares

for heat and silence

A small plane

buzzing like a fly

disturbs the sky

The air eats it

Far out on the slumbering sea

a trawler creeps along

The wind from the south

blows the bait in the fish’s mouth

The yawning sea

swallows the trawler

The lichen lives on

in its volcanic stone



awaiting its turn

in the turn of the sun

Never will I return here

never again

breathe this wind

on this far run

in the reaches of morning

where the sea whispers

patience and salt

The sun scorches the sky

and drops like a burnt-out match

into night

And I am an animal still

Perhaps once a bird

a halcyon

who makes its nest at sea

on my little flight across

the little chart

of my existence

Life goes on

full of silence and clamor

in the grey cities

in the far bourgs

in the white cities by the sea

where I go on

writing my life

in neither blood nor wine

I still wait and epiphany

by the petri-dish of the sea

where all life began by swimming

But it’s time now

to give an accounting of everything

an explanation of everything

such as

why there is darkness at night

Everywhere the sea is rising

Am I to be drowned with the rest of them

All the animals of earth

washed away in ocean

motherer and moitherer

in this tremendous moment

of calamitous sea-change

as our little world disappears

in a tremor of ocean and fear

to the murmur

of the middle of America

as imbeciles in neckties

drop from the trees?

No matter then

If I end up

In a house of insurgents

or shoeless on Boston Common

or cast-up clueless

in my great Uncle Desir’s

beach hut

in St. Thomas

Pardon my conduct then

if I can’t give you

any final word –

a final unified theory of existence

all thought subsumed

in one great thought

(utopian vision?)

Humans with all their voices

As myriad as

the syllables of the sea

have never been able to fathom

man’s fate

nor tell us why we are here

Still will we be

free as the sea

to be nothing but

our own shadow selves

beach bums all after all

in future time when

nations no longer exist

and the earth is swept

by ethnic hordes

in search of food and shelter?

Neither patient nor placid

in the face of all this

in the sea of every day

with its two tides

I run before the wind

Immune to hidden reefs or harbors

Someone throws me crystal fruits

in the shape of life-preservers

Others wave from distant strands

Goodbye! Goodbye!

Beached at last

bleached out

I would to the woods again

with its ancient trees

that sing like sitars

in the wind

Wordless ragas!

Shipwrecked ashore

at the mercy of avaricious gulls –

And yet and yet

we are still not born for despair

Spring comes anyway

And a gay excursion train appears

The ancient conductor

with stove-pipe hat

and gold pocketwatch

greets us like long-lost passengers

gracing us with

wreaths around our necks

as arms of lovers

insanely embrace us

Is there anything more to be said

before they carry us off

as dead

while we’re still dreaming

still in search of the bread of the word

cast upon the waters

the dough that rises

in the yeast of speech

in the written word

in poetry

Tracks upon the sand!

left by corralled hands of animals

cornered by mistakes and hapitudes

and trains taken

to mistaken destinations

or trips taken or not taken

with angels of love

to lower latitudes

Between two waves

the ocean is still –

a silence of ages

lasting but a moment

between two waves

of emotion

as lovers

turn to each other

or away

Love ebbs and flows

comes and goes

between two emotions

but surges forth again

with each new wave

but surges forth again

with each new wave

as some sea-creature from the deep

breaks the surface with a leap!

The sea roars but says no more

O the yarns it could spin

if it would

between its rages

under the eye of the sun

under the ear of the sky –

Plunderers and pieces of eight!

Invisible cities!

Crystal skulls!

Petrified hulls!

Sailors’ masturbations!





Compiled/Published by LeRoy Chatfield
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