The tide’s a Bach cantata.
The beach is the swollen neck of Isaac.
The tide’s a lamentation of white opals.
The beach is free. The Coke machine rusted out.
Here is everything you’ll never need:
hemp-cords, curry-combs, jade and musk,
a porcelain cup blown into the desert—
stockings that walked to Syria in 1915.
On the rocks some ewes and rams
graze in the outer dark.
The manes of the shoreline undo your hair.
A sapphire ring is fingerless.
The weed and algae are floating like a bed,
and the bloodless gulls—
whose breaths would stink of all of us
if we could kiss them on the beaks—
are gnawing on the dead.
Peter Balakian, “Ellis Island” from June-Tree: New and Selected Poems 1974-2000. Copyright © 2001 by Peter Balakian. Used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
Source: June-tree: New and Selected Poems