Shipwreck in Haven, Part Four

By Keith Waldrop b. 1932 Keith Waldrop

Fate is cleverer than the king
of Babylon. Shadow of yew
fall through windows onto

the floor of the nave and
touch the pillars with tattered
shade. You claim the dearest wish of your

life is to sink into a soul-freezing
situation of horror.  The music of a crash
caught in the hollow of a wooded hillside.


Grave, questioning sweep—chiefly the weird
that arouses our keenest hopes. The garden of
dreams contains a summerhouse, hazy

period of my growth. There are bodies,
not greatly extended, called seas nevertheless,
because of their depth and

violence. I’ve some little
doubt about this ceremony entirely
embedded in a cup of grassy hills.


Pardon me for loitering. I was sleeping
soundly when I was roused by the loud
clang of what turned out to be

a large brass candlestick, flung
against the banister. Unprotected,
destitute of the means of self-defense, you

hug to yourself the consciousness of
vanished beauty. The sea is un-
certain, on the main and also along the coast.


Strange rooms. Through these experimental
years, who can describe beauty
in the dead of night? Complain of

frivolity or of portraits exactly
like ghosts. The waters of the great
surrounding sea will completely

evaporate when the sun opens the fifth
of its seven eyes. Oh yes, I take
pleasure in backgrounds, bringing them forward.


These are only a few of many
legendary details, called from the distant
future where each thing has its

end, including sea, sun, the eyes.
You live in another season—even now I
feel acrobatic instincts. Large strange

rooms. A silver cup from his household
plate, a sky of the same
gray tones, a great wilderness of books.


When the sea subsides into utter
calm, changing clouds caught in its
clarity, then fishermen say the sea

is thinking about itself. A dark back
room, looking down upon a narrow
courtyard—waking out of some

dreams of specters, bellowing the most
frightful shrieks, forgetting only
at the sound of somebody’s voice.


You light me to bed with your light, and
never a night but I am
prey to ghostly visions—a tenderness

no usual in my family. The lion
pauses a certain space of time, amid
a sea of divers thoughts, choppy half

desires, memoranda of search
and hunger, very peculiar
ideas of the world.

Keith Waldrop, “Shipwreck in Haven, Part Four” from Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy. Copyright © 2009 by the Regents of the University of California. Reprinted by permission of University of California Press.

Source: Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy (University of California Press, 2009)

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Poet Keith Waldrop b. 1932

Subjects Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Seas, Rivers, & Streams


Keith Waldrop, who was awarded the 2009 National Book Award for poetry for Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy, has been a prominent voice in American poetry for over forty years.  He is the author of over a dozen books of poetry, prose, and translations. With Rosmarie Waldrop he co-edits Burning Deck Press.

Waldrop was born in Emporia, Kansas in 1932. He enrolled in the pre-med program at Kansas State Teacher’s College, but his . . .

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SUBJECT Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Seas, Rivers, & Streams

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