Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE ARCHITECT AT THE EDGE OF THE SEA, by KAREN SWENSON



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THE ARCHITECT AT THE EDGE OF THE SEA, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: My stride was two to my father's by the sea
Last Line: Surge, master of the arch of element.
Subject(s): Architecture & Architects; Fathers & Daughters; Memory; Poetry & Poets


My stride was two to my father's by the sea,
back arching into its green voice whose final
words whisper on white foam lips. Weathered cubes
in clapboard variations perched along
the seawall. He spoke of St. Paul or Kepler,
of hammer beams, or corbels, footing stones,
a search for structure to resist all tides
while the small sandpiper feet of my voice scurried
to feed along the edge of his.

We ended
at the cairn of sea-slapped rock streaming khaki,
kelp ribbons where we filled my pail, his boots
with mussels. We steamed their flesh orange within
the shields of nacre, luminous against
blue rims - a spoon of moon on midnight's ocean.

In my constructions - struts of syntax, meter's
well-spaced joists - words come back, a childhood language
now tattered in the undertow of his death,
vocabulary of thought which, like weathered
cubes on a seawall, promise refuge, as
though sounds were stones, as if steel structure could
endure the earth's tectonics. Words or sand
a frail shield, a child's hand held up before her
face to hide from a parent's slap.

An autumn
breath blew froth from crests of waves, chilling marrow
to iron rods in my arms and legs. I rode
white mares of water but was no rival for
a lone seal sliding beyond arms' reach within
surge, master of the arch of element.





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