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1.

What we mean is always on the other side.

Aeneas to Italy, Diocletian

to Dalmatia, endless ferrying, wine, wanderers, words.

 

2.

It is like that in our town,

trees lacey with new snow,

the sun waiting. The book

lies open on the table,

poem, painted cover, body

leaping in a room, over

the lurking window, light.

 

3.

We watched it from Venice

stood by the white church

and almost understood.

The sea makes far near,

the sun was coming out,

there is something to be done.

 

4.

I know it mostly though

from old poetry, Odysseus

chugging up the shore

to his lost found island,

epics and not much evidence

except the waves. The woman

waiting. Did his hands

tremble as he stepped ashore?

 

5.

Mine did at waking,

mind milky with confused prayers,

there are days like pop songs,

trivial, public, irrelevant

but there they are,

I must learn to endure my mind.

 

6.

Or what is the other side of prayer,

other of the words

we think we mean we find

ourselves saying? Long

narrow sea, different languages apart.

Speak them for me. Speak me

at least in one.

 

7.

Or are we there already?

Other side, mother tide,

born over and over?

Forgive me, we means me,

I keep making that mistake

of thinking I am not alone.

 

8.

But, you’ll answer, some real

you I mean, but one is, you are,

I am, never alone in language.

Open your mouth and you’re in a crowded room.

 

9.

White church, white surf,

white gull to gloat

over the fish dock

and they say things too

as they gorge on scraps,

little boy I was reading fat books.

 

10.

So that’s what the sea says

but only if you think about it.

Cross me if you dare,

what you’ll find is just more here,

notice how ill-equipped

you are for swimming my miles,

the other side is just a dream

anyhow, listen to your mind,

you’ll hear weird languages enough.

 

11.

I must be lonely

if I’m chatting with the sea,

and not even her local currents.

Not lonely, just early

waiting for the day to start

washing up on the shores of sleep.

Wake me at noon

when no one sleeps.

 

12.

Greece, or Italy.

I never could decide,

we took our law from one,

our logic from the other.

And war from both

on this winter day Slavs

murdering Slavs along

yet another sea, other side

of the other side.

 

13.

I think of the dying Virgil

sailing back to the heel of Italy

and the long road Rome.

We do not need to kill our enemy,

it is enough to speak clearly once

their secret name, and then a feeling

comes between you, quiet, pale,

a little like an iris, or a lily.