There was a time, when I would daily go
To Gravesend Bay and run along the shore
To Caesar's Bay. And there, I'd turn around
And race again to where the Verrazano Bridge
Makes giant arch to Staten Island. Then
I'd jog, at times, or else I'd slow and walk
Towards the north, until I turned a bend
And saw the towers at Manhattan's edge.
On weekends, I would often venture more,
To pier jutting out at 65th,
And walking to that jetty's very end,
I'd watch the tide that heaved below, the gulls
That flew and dived – and all the ships that sailed
From far and near towards the waiting docks,
And those that traveled out towards the deep...
And then, refreshed, I would return to work
That even then would never seem to end,
But which, with naiveté and spirit's force,
I turned to sense and sequence – much as others,
In their endless daily labor, do.
Those days, alas, are passed, and though I live,
At present, nearer to the waiting bay,
It waits in vain for one, who rarely finds
The time or strength to walk across the bridge
That we pedestrians use to cross the flow
Of cars upon the parkway by the shore,
Or for that harried soul to find his way
By other routes to meet that ocean swell.
What vanity, to think an ocean waits
For ant like me to walk by it again!
But of such fantasy, are verses born,
And each of us imagines all the rest
Must wheel around the center that is us –
Delusion that persists, at times, till death...
And yet, how grateful is this ant, who knows
That he is nothing, though he oft forgets –
How grateful, for the grace that he received
From ocean's breath – and vision of that sea
That stretches till it seems to meet the sky,
And so reminds us of our tiny place...
And so, I also thank that sky above,
By day illumined by the searing sun,
At times an ocean, blue and arcing wide,
At times, with clouds, like wondrous changelings, filled –
And then, at night, revealing all its deep,
As woman drops her veil and shows her eyes,
With all the universe contained within...
There is a sacred space within us all,
As much in trees as in the prophets past,
Where time is stilled and all is seen as one –
And sky and sea and land untouched by hands
Of ones demented call us back to that.
How tranquil is that feeling they evoke,
That sea, that sky, those beings full of change
And yet eternal, like imagined gods,
In mortals such as I, who walk the streets
Of city full of labor, rush and grime –
And yet beneath that sky, beside that sea,
Reminders, still, of what this life can be...
That we are part of such an universe,
In which our problems and our quests are naught,
Is knowledge earned in raptured silences
By such as I, who still presume to teach
The youngsters, eager or by cities burned,
By using voice and writing, all the tools
That fail, for lessons such as I have learned
From these, my tutors two, the sky and sea...
But in the children and in all of us
There is that sea, that never-ending deep
We call the sky, with all its burning stars,
And there's the land that also waits for those,
Who left its fields and slopes for city streets,
Forgetting much in our desire to learn.
We all must live, and jobs provide the cash
For sustenance and even for the tools
With which to write such verses as we do,
Be these composed of words or other things
For which we labor, purely out of love,
As some may do for children, aged or ill.
But jobs can eat away at being's core,
And sap the life that land and sea and sky
Have given us. To live and to enjoy
This little time we have is blessing true
And yet, we're made to squander it on things
That have no meaning, being webs of lies.
And woe! We're caught within those iron webs,
And so must spin, like gears of engines made
For profit and for keeping us enslaved,
Compelled to do, and do at vicious speed,
Our virtues quelled or used for specious ends...
Yet some of us attempt to do what's right,
To do our jobs as conscience asks us to,
To bring some meaning back, where meaning's gone,
To bring some light again to eyes grown dull,
For our own satisfaction at the end
Of working day – and then of working life,
So we can say, “It wasn't all a waste.”
And what, I wonder, will our students do,
The ones who strive, with diligence, to learn?
Will they, in turn, be caught in spreading webs,
Be gears in engines, fated then to spin
And grind away their lives in senseless ways,
And only blessed by grace of ignorance?
If I had courage more, to students, I
Would say, “Leave all your books aside
And all those gadgets new that entertain.
Go walk a mile beside that ocean shore
And gaze at curving waves and arcing sky.
In silence, walk, to learn the lessons deep.
And treading softly on the hallowed ground
That gave you birth, reach down to touch its breast.
“Awake at dawn. Inhale the morning mist,
The scent of grass... Anoint your temples with
That dew, the tranquil essence of the sea,
That sky has brought in silence to the land.
And in that silence, look in others' eyes
And sense what currents run within that deep.
And if you can, from window, roof or street,
Observe the starry sky, the changing moon,
For they will teach you what I cannot teach.”