All day the sea
beat its head against the rocks
“Listen,” it said, “I am coming for you.”
“I am coming for you.” It gargled
appearing to have no other ambition
or idea even on what to do upon its arrival.
“I’m coming back for you.” It hissed
rolling its well oiled eyes
over its slippery shoulders
and then sinking away
into the wet folds
of its own blue being.
“I’ll be back for you.” It gasped
choking on its juice and foaming
at the four corners of its mouth.
And it was good to its word;
again and again it came back
with the same spit in its whiskers
with the same salt in its wake
the same sore reflection weeping
in the blistering mirror
the same never-the-same face again
and again in the simmering tide
in the lazy green and blue off-the-boil sea.
“You stay there,
you stay where you are.”
Is the voice that meets the waves
biting time between its teeth
with a mouthful of old stones
tucked into its cheeks
“You’ll come no further.“
Are the words that grind
back into the water.
“We have nothing to offer each other
just rust and suds
only corrosion and foam.”
And the empty shells along the coast
close their hard ears
to the sallying spray
to the heard-it-all-before
to the back and forth, slow slap and slew.
And each evening the algae rises
to silence the sea’s black buttery tongue
to lay wreaths of weed on the obstinate rocks
and the quarrel is quelled
to a lagging swell
and there is hush, hush in the oily dusk.
Now take the track back up the cliff
the path that cannot make its own mind up
that twists through the stinging pine trees
and stops and turns and starts again
this way through the sweet sage
this way through the scratching scrub
to the top of the ten house town
with its white washed chapel
and single-room school rented for guests,
two of whom are sat on its pink steps
the day’s salt bitter on their skin
their lips sticky with figs and coffee
and all their troubles
arranged like old furniture
on the lawn before them.
“Describe,” she says, “the table.”
“It’s blue.” he says.
“Blue like the sea?” “No, brighter.”
“Blue like the sky?” “No, lighter.”
“Blue like your eyes?” “Like my eyes?” he says
closing them slowly and imagining
the blue table in a field at night
alone with the sheep.
The blue table grazing in the purple grass.
The blue table under the silent stars.
The blue table with the moon
riding on its cold flat back.
The blue table, soaking wine and flour
seasoned with oil and anointed
with argument and blessing
crossed with carving and craving and grace
set for serving and stews and disputes
witness to signatures and dinners
and letters and lessons
written in longhand ink
in nocturnal script
or tapped softly out
on domino black keys;
messages ready for sending.
And the shrill crickets violin
their one staccato note to sharp perfection
counting down the hours
through the coffee dark night
where the wind holds its breath
on the cold stones
and saves its sighs
for the warm yellow morning
that walks up the bare foot lane
for the moon has left its plate
out on the table
and the stars, their salt.
It is time to clear them away
for the rope long day
is already one hand along its length
and the bell at its end
is ringing its beginning
and the insects are done.
They have packed up their night song
and their creaking limbs are quiet
the orchestra is gone; it is time.
Clear the table
and you will find it not empty
but complete, blue and complete.
It is time now
to go back to the sea
to revisit the stirring surf.
And how many stones lay along the road
between Pernat and Lubenice?
As many words as we have hurled at each other
and yet not enough to make one single sentence
just a winding wall of talk
that keeps us to our course.
And the story goes that one morning
the teacher came in and wiped
an entire language from the board
and began again; “Dober dan.” she said
pressing her palms firmly
onto her blue school desk,
“do-ber-dan” she said
pushing her hands into the sea
reaching into the waves
where her silver children
innocent as fish
vowel the new sounds
catching each syllable
in their quick, clean mouths
shrieking goodbye to the turning tide.
Gone are the old squabbles
it is time for fresh exchanges
to find themselves upon these rocks.