The sea wind whispers and the tall oaks shake,
their leaves shimmering in the August noon.
And now the dry grass wrinkles and the floorboards flame.
Saffron motes, a distant bird cry, this brackish sea.
What was it you figured the wind might say?
The oaks sway gently this way and that.
Like young girls they sway, their long locks
shaking in the golden green. They are singing
to themselves, something only they can understand,
the sequins of their shadows shimmering with song.
Like some burning bush touched only by the wind they shine.
For the past two days you’ve waited by the threshold,
tide out, tide in, then out and in again, as if calling someone.
Your old stone boat sits there on the shore, ready to take on
those deeper waters, as if it really could. Again
the plum-purple waves are beachward washing,
each cold comber composed of spume and granite.
And still nothing seems to happen the way you configured
to yourself, though somewhere out there in those depths
continents collide, and somewhere dying stars implode.
The frequencies of air are filled with foreign gargle
and all the indices are down or going under. “Nowhere
in Aquinas will you find a rationale for so-called private
property,” Father is exhorting, as his little congregation,
composed mostly of seasoned religious women, nod their heads.
Cold comfort there, you think, considering what you’ve already lost,
but the Gospel seems to back them. It’s the scene where Peter
goes out into the depths to fish as the Lord has told him to,
and—behold!—the first fish he catches has money where its mouth is,
enough to pay the noisome temple tax not once, but twice,
for his master and himself. Found money, no? Mayhap there is
a lesson there for you? And if there is, pray tell me what it is.
When Jesus, striding the blue-black waves there in the predawn
dark, called out to Peter to come to him, impetuous Peter leapt
overboard at once. Somehow, the yawing waves half-steadied him,
and with baby steps, or like a drunk man on the dizzying
ice, began walking on the waters toward the bedazzling figure,
who stood there like some blown beacon beckoning him.
At which point, Peter must have told himself that this was easy,
so who needed him? Which is when the Rock went under,
spluttering in that insane gasping sea. Only Christ’s fast grip
upon his wrist had saved him then. How often he must have
thought back on that shock moment to try and sort out what
had happened. So take a moment now, oh scholar of one candle,
and look up from your desk. The oaks are quiet now, and the sun,
that king of glory, has since moved on. The clouds, like full-fed
crowds, are gone, and the choiring girls have turned again to trees.
They know that somewhere, now as then, the wind keeps whispering still.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.