A Graveyard

By Marianne Moore 1887–1972 Marianne Moore
Man, looking into the sea—
taking the view from those who have as much right to it as you have it to yourself—
it is human nature to stand in the middle of a thing
but you cannot stand in the middle of this:
the sea has nothing to give but a well excavated grave.
The firs stand in a procession—each with an emerald turkey-foot at the top—
reserved as their contours, saying nothing;
repression, however, is not the most obvious characteristic of the sea;
the sea is a collector, quick to return a rapacious look.
There are others besides you who have worn that look—
whose expression is no longer a protest; the fish no longer investigate them
for their bones have not lasted;
men lower nets, unconscious of the fact that they are desecrating a grave,
and row quickly away—the blades of the oars   
moving together like the feet of water-spiders as if there were no such thing as death.
The wrinkles progress upon themselves in a phalanx—beautiful under networks of foam,
and fade breathlessly while the sea rustles in and out of the seaweed;
the birds swim through the air at top speed, emitting cat-calls as heretofore—
the tortoise-shell scourges about the feet of the cliffs, in motion beneath them
and the ocean, under the pulsation of light-houses and noise of bell-buoys,
advances as usual, looking as if it were not that ocean in which dropped things are bound to sink—
in which if they turn and twist, it is neither with volition nor consciousness.

Source: Becoming Marianne Moore: The Early Poems 1907-1924 (University of California Press, 2002)

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Poet Marianne Moore 1887–1972

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Subjects Activities, Jobs & Working, Nature, Seas, Rivers, & Streams

 Marianne  Moore

Biography

One of American literature’s foremost poets, Marianne Moore’s poetry is characterized by linguistic precision, keen and probing descriptions, and acute observations of people, places, animals, and art. Her poems often reflect her preoccupation with the relationships between the common and the uncommon, as well as advocate discipline in both art and life, and espouse restraint, modesty, and humor. She frequently used animals as a . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Activities, Jobs & Working, Nature, Seas, Rivers, & Streams

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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