Sunday, April 15, 2012

Living on the Surface

Rooms by the Sea, 1951
By Edward Hopper (American, 1882–1967

The following poem has been in my notebook of favorites for thirty years now, since my Arkansas days, back when Bill Clinton was governor. I like the combination of grief and evolutionary biology, the mystery of salt water without and within, the existential quest for meaning -- "Not that we know what we're doing here." Yet, despite our sad lack of comprehension -- "We try to do what's right":

Living on the Surface
The dolphin
walked upon the land a little while
and crawled back to the sea
saying something thereby
about all that we live with.

Some of us
have followed him from time to time.
Most of us stay.
Not that we know what we're doing here.

We do it anyway
lugging a small part of the sea around.
It leaks out our eyes.

We swim inside ourselves
but we walk on the land.

What's wrong, we say, what's wrong?

Think how sadness soaks into
the beds we lie on.

Jesus, we've only just got here.
We try to do what's right
but what do we know?

by American poet Miller Williams
Professor of English and Foreign Languages
and Director of the University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville

For this poem & more, see: "Surface Dwellers"
my fortnightly literary blog
[every 14th & 28th]
of connection and coincidence

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