'Lost in a foaming green crawl, I grew smaller than me'

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For many of us who live in landlocked states, an encounter with the tumult and power of the sea can be a bracing encounter with nature. Here, in a poem I came across in a clever new anthology called Read Water, Annie Finch captures the humbling way that the sea asserts its forceful voice.

 

EDGE, ATLANTIC, JULY

by Annie Finch

 

I picked my way nearer along the shocking rock shelf,

hoping the spray would rise up to meet me, myself.

 

Seagulls roared louder and closer than anything planned;

I looked out to see and forgot I could still see the land.

 

Lost in a foaming green crawl, I grew smaller than me;

shrunk in a tidepool, I heaved, and I wondered. The sea

 

grew like monuments for me.  Each wave and its coloring shadow,

bereft, wild and laden with wrack, spoke for me and had no

 

need of my words anymore. I was open and glad

at last, grateful like seaweed and glad, since I had

 

no place on the rocks but a voice, and the voice was the sea’s:

not my own. Just the sea’s.

 

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2020 by Annie Finch, ‘Edge, Atlantic, July’ from Read Water: An Anthology (Locked Horn Press, 2020.) Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2021 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.

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