Shore Line

By Carl Rakosi 1903–2004 Carl Rakosi
We speak of mankind.   
Why not wavekind?

Barrel-chested military water   
rushes in a mass
to break the shore earth
into stonekind.

Pphlooph pphlooph
                              the waves grope   
indistinctly for the shore.

As delicate
                  as a butterfly
along a cheek
                     a boat with white
and orange sail appears.
A small boy in a life-belt
sits in front and looks ahead
with all his might.
                      His father steers,   
attached like a shaft
to his son’s safety
and the sail’s management.

A sunfish thrown back by a fisherman   
lies drowned and pitching.   
The eyes are white in death.

This is the raw data.
A mystery translates it
into feeling and perception;   
then imagination;
finally the hard
inevitable quartz
figure of will
                      and language.
Thus a squirrel tail flying
from a handlebar
unmistakably establishes
its passing rider
as a male unbowed
                         in a chipper plume.

Carl Rakosi, “Shore Line” from The Collected Poems of Carl Rakosi (Orono: The National Poetry Foundation, 1986). Used with the permission of Marilyn J. Kane.

Source: The Collected Poems of Carl Rakosi (National Poetry Foundation, 1986)

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Poet Carl Rakosi 1903–2004

SCHOOL / PERIOD Objectivist

Subjects Nature, Seas, Rivers, & Streams

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Carl  Rakosi


The son of German Jewish parents, Carl Rakosi was born in Berlin in 1903, moving soon to Hungary following his parents’ separation in 1904. Immigrating with his father and stepmother to Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 1910, he eventually graduated from the University of Wisconsin (where he edited the literary magazine) and later earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of Pennsylvania. Rakosi’s involvement in the . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Seas, Rivers, & Streams

SCHOOL / PERIOD Objectivist

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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