March 26 Stanley Kunitz: the Long Boat

I’ve obtained a photo copy of several poems, but don’t remember where they came from. I am a collector of random works. I have many photo copies of poems and short stories – even one novel – just lining shelves tucked away here and there. I have thoughts and poems and pieces from books I liked jotted quickly down on sticky notes and torn notebook pages.

This photo copy of poems seems to contrast and compare poems – two per page. Today’s poem is a contrast of the poem that I put into the March 25th posting (the Ebbing Hour). It’s called “the Long Boat”.

In a way, they are opposite poems. They both involve the sea and sleep, but there the similarity ends. “Ebbing Hour” starts with a sleeper who wakes up and bravely faces what is before her “I don’t want to miss/the last important thing/I’ll ever do.” She feels that her time is up, just as the subject of this poem does, but she is fighting tooth and nail until the very end. “When you’re falling off a cliff, might as well grab at anything you can on the way down,” is a quote from a show that has always stayed with me and always been my motto from that time on.

But what happens when the mooring slips? When the ground is but a few feet away and your fingers don’t even brush at the cliff sides and longer? What if you’ve tried every option, even the crazy and stupid ones? I think that that is what this poem is about. I don’t think it’s a sad poem about what is lost, but instead a poem about acceptance and finding peace, finding your place in the Long Hall of your ancestors.

The Long Boat

by Stanley Kunitz

When his boat snapped loose
from its moorings, under
the screaking of the gulls,
he tried at first to wave
to his dear ones on shore,
but in the rolling fog
they had already lost their faces.
Too tired even to choose
between jumping and calling,
somehow he felt absolved and free
of his burdens, those mottoes
stamped on his name-tag;
conscience, ambition, and all
that caring.
He was content to lie down
with the family ghosts
in the slop of his cradle,
buffeted by the storm,
endlessly drifting.
Peace! Peace!
To be rocked by the Infinite!
As if it didn’t matter
which way was home;
as if he didn’t know
he loved the earth so much
he wanted to stay forever.

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About penneloppe

I like to write horror, dark fantasy and crime fiction. Sometimes, I'll write science fiction, but usually I like to write science fact. I also write screenplays and stage plays. My day job is office work. I live in Seattle and I have a cat.
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