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Water at Night

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Not that I understand things.
Angels don’t walk toward the ship, old engraving
where moon throws
a river of light, how angels would walk the ocean
if they wanted to walk.
They don’t. They hover. A lot of space
between them and what
shines like waves. Which can’t
be a choice, for angels or
the engraver who was in fact
Gustave Doré after sleeping off
the ancient mariner Coleridge left behind under
guilt and regret and an albatross’s weight.
Which isn’t much, but they are
big animals, four feet across counting
the wind involved
and rain. Doré waking to a room not
really of wings. I guess
a stirring, something in the black expanse
he hoped to razor into
the copper plate — no, a graver,
not a razor at all.
Beauty does terrify, a bare nothing
but stop. As in angels. Abrupt.
Still, to cut them their flight on metal
takes a while. His hands stiff,
Doré under a deadline no doubt like the small
endlessly later rest of us
do what we do and do until
it’s not what we do.
Nevertheless, angels. Why did they
keep coming, one by one radiant
dark of a mind paused to
this most desolate given: water at night.
That it floods a future not
even in the picture.

Source: Poetry (November 2015)

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This poem originally appeared in the November 2015 issue of Poetry magazine

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Water at Night

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