Tide of Voices

By Lynda Hull 1954–1994 Lynda Hull
At the hour the streetlights come on, buildings
turn abstract. The Hudson, for a moment, formal.   
We drink bourbon on the terrace and you speak
in the evening voice, weighted deep in the throat.

They plan to harvest oysters, you tell me,
from the harbor by Jersey City, how the waters
will be clean again in twenty years. I imagine nets
burdened with rough shells, the meat dun and sexual.

Below, the river and the high rock
where boys each year jump from bravado
or desperation. The day flares, turns into itself.
And innocently, sideways, the way we always fall

into grace or knowledge, we watched the police
drag the river for a suicide, the third this year.   
The terrible hook, the boy’s frail whiteness.
His face was blank and new as your face

in the morning before the day has worked
its pattern of lines and tensions. A hook
like an iron question and this coming
out of the waters, a flawed pearl—

a memory that wasn’t ours to claim.   
Perhaps, in a bedroom by lamplight,   
a woman waits for this boy. She may riffle drawers
gathering photographs, string, keys to abandoned rooms.

Even now she may be leaving,   
closing the door for some silence. I need
to move next to you. Water sluiced
from the boy’s hair. I need to watch you

light your cigarette, the flickering
of your face in matchlight, as if underwater,
drifting away. I take your cigarette
and drag from it, touch your hand.

Remember that winter of your long fever,   
the winter we understood how fragile
any being together was. The wall sweated   
behind the headboard and you said you felt

the rim where dreams crouch
and every room of the past. It must begin in luxury—
do you think—a break and fall into the glamour
attending each kind of surrender. Water must flood

the mind, as in certain diseases, the walls
between the cells of memory dissolve, blur
into a single stream of voices and faces.   
I don’t know any more about this river or if

it can be cleaned of its tender and broken histories—
a tide of voices. And this is how the dead
rise to us, transformed: wet and singing,   
the tide of voices pearling in our hands.

Lynda Hull, "Tide of Voices" from Collected Poems. Copyright © 2006 by the Estate of Lynda Hull. Used by permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.

Source: Collected Poems (Graywolf Press, 2006)

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Poet Lynda Hull 1954–1994

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Living, Death, Relationships, Love, Family & Ancestors, Nature, Seas, Rivers, & Streams

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Lynda  Hull


Lynda Hull was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1954. Her collections include Ghost Money (1986), recipient of the Juniper Prize; Star Ledger (1991), which won the 1991 Carl Sandburg and 1990 Edwin Ford Piper awards; and The Only World: Poems, published posthumously in 1995 and finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry. In 2006, Graywolf Press published her Collected Poems, edited by her husband, David . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Death, Relationships, Love, Family & Ancestors, Nature, Seas, Rivers, & Streams

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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