Tuesday, February 11, 2014

"The Sea Tugged at His Heart"

(In Memoriam: S. C.)

The sea tugged at his heart with all its tides,
            Its colors and rhythms and tumults; and tall ships
Passing at dawn or pausing at twilight were always
            In his eyes and his talk and at his fingertips.

He would show me drawings I only half understood:
            Mechanical plans and charts of schooners and whalers,
Brigs and brigantines, luggers and galleys and galleons—
            And salt was in his talk like the talk of sailors.

Beautiful, big eyed, with rebellious hair,
            I watch him in a stiff wind with his boat,
Letting her have it; and I watch him roping her
            Down at the dock and the spray all over his coat.

And I watch him again at our sloshy old wharf with the rising
            Wind and water suckling him out to sea;
And he gets in his boat and heads into the dawndrift.
            To chat with a certain Captain from Galilee.

To show Him his charts and plans as sailor to sailor,
            To speak as one seaman to another, observing
The beauty of ships, the bravery of men, the terrible
            Glory of the gray gulls plunging and swerving.

Dead? This boy with the sea in his eyes and the morning
            Still great and new in his blood like a trumpet with tones
Lavish and marvelous? Dead? With the sea birds crying
            And the wind and the water crying in his head.

By Joseph Auslander
[On July 1, 1937, Joseph Auslander began his term as the first Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. Auslander was noted for his war poems; his best-known work, The Unconquerables (1943), is a collection of poems addressed to the German-occupied countries of Europe.
Auslander was selected for the position, which originally had no fixed term, by Librarian of Congress Herbert Putnam. Auslander served as consultant until December 8, 1941, by which time subsequent Librarian of Congress Archibald MacLeish had decided to rotate the consultantship among American poets.]

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