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An Unknown Shore: Variations on a Fragment by Oppen

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Cortez arrives.
            he is absolutely lost
   at an unknown shore.
            an he is enraptured

(this is the nature of poetry


The poem:

Cortez arrives at an unknown shore
  he is absolutely lost
  and he is enraptured


Cortez arrives at an unknown shore
  he is utterly lost
  but he is enraptured


Cortez arrives too late.
  the shore is absolutely barren, the men lost
            to starvation and rapture


Cortez utters:
  “lost.”

  (this is the nature of description


Cortez walks upon the beach.
  the ocean is as still as a map
  spread out on a table.

  (he takes a nap.


  All the Cortezs arrive.
all the waves arrive

  (this is the nature of disaster

Andrew Allport, “An Unknown Shore: Variations on a Fragment by Oppen” from The Ice Ship & Other Vessels, published by Proem Press. Copyright © 2008 by Andrew Allport. Reprinted by permission of the author.
Source: The Ice Ship & Other Vessels (Proem Press, 2008)
An Unknown Shore: Variations on a Fragment by Oppen

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