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Not the Atlantic

This poem is not about the Atlantic, but it is nearby, so close it can hear the boats offshore, and the waves falling over, the white-bellied terns crying over their nests. So close we can see it whenever we want to, which is not often, and never for long, because if anything is interesting, it's not the Atlantic. Flat, and too wide to measure, with a color that really belongs to the sky, there's nothing there to make the mind hold still. And when the poem learns the truth about waves, how they travel light, like rumors, and nothing goes with them, the poem is ready to give up! It says the Atlantic is too cold to go into right now and it stays at the edge with whatever it finds there: wooden pulleys and bottles, a dogfish dead in the sand, smooth stones, and beach grass bent over in wind. An injured gull picks seaweed for insects, and below this hill the Atlantic left years ago, a girl urges a white horse across the rim of exploding breakers, their blonde manes all waving and running behind. But still, none of this is really about the Atlantic, because the Atlantic is impossible; because it is about things being here, but not about the things themselves. And we're here at the edge, where things we can name are discarded, and sand bars trip waves to collapse at our feet. On this shore which is not the Atlantic, with these nearby birds who are not the Atlantic, as sand is not, or water, or any other words. And if not the Atlantic, then none of these -- grass, fire, hill, and we are not here in this poem and no objects are near us.

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