Why I Love the Sea

One Saturday afternoon when I was about sixteen, I found an odd note on our kitchen bulletin board. On a small piece of notepaper my father had scribbled the following lines: “I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.” The note was addressed to my mother, and I was both startled and impressed. Who knew my father was a poet? Years later, of course, I came to know the poem as John Masefield’s “Sea Fever,” and in my father’s case, the lines meant he had gone to the Detroit River to watch the boats go by, a favorite pastime. It seems fitting, therefore, that I should start my sailing blog with this memory and a sea poem of my own.

Why I Love the Sea

It flounces in and bows away
retreats in a huff and returns with a roar
It splinters on rocks and sprays diamonds
Garbed in bright blue, satin green, mist gray
it moves in thrall to the distant moon
a luminous clockwork lover
When it reaches the beach
the waves melt into the sand
and lose themselves in an ecstasy of submission

The sea is patient and enamored of disorder
It harbors all, from the pipsqueak minnows
to the mighty whales, the leaping dolphins
and fish that fly, the sharks and tentacled octopi
the turtles afloat in sargasso
Who eats whom is not the sea’s care
Let the denizens manage their own affairs
Sadly, the sea heaves our garbage ashore
Sisyphean housekeeping, Augean chore
There is no pollution but what we put there
soiling the center, littering the floor

The sea builds mountains, white-capped peaks
that grind and growl and prowl
the vast space
like a restless continent
seeking someplace to settle
After a storm, the sea sings itself to sleep
and the little boats sigh in relief

The sea likes to touch,
to finger the barnacle-crusted docks
and scratch its back on the corals
It tickles the feet of the gullible gulls
dangling like petals, pink, black and yellow,
in the mischievous water
Then along the hulls of the ships it glides,
strange wombs pregnant with wayfarers and crew
air-breathers, noisy, excitable
Caressing the bodies that fall overboard
smoothing their tangled hair
Dear ones, says the sea, why do you weep?
Borne in my arms, wide eyed at the sights
we will they travel this last voyage together

When I step from my boat
the earth sways beneath my feet
What is solidity to crave for?
The land people say, “It’s only water, repeating itself.”
But I who have sailed it
know its fluid bones and buried heartbeat
and the surge as it rises to meet me