Was sent this message by marsh hawk: Rise.
Heard from the humpbacked whale: Dive.
Listened a while to the song sparrow,
sturdy and square as a salt shaker,
who sings all day from the branch of the bayberry: Remain.
What does anyone know for sure?
At night the fishing boats ride offshore, shining,
lamps hung up on their masts. All fire and water.
The lighthouse flashes and turns.
Then I can’t see past the dark
pressing up to my face.
The Disposition of Water
The water shivers in a bowl beside the window
propped open to sea breezes. It will keep moving
in answer to what plays over its surface, or shift
and tip to a deeper disturbance from beneath
when the tables shakes in a heavier gust of wind
and pitches sideways on spindly legs.
But when the wind stops, the water in the bowl subsides,
calm and clear as the most transparent sleeper,
without dream or memory, without foreboding.
Notice that it moves most often just a moment after
the event. First the wind, and then ripples. But first
a hesitation, signaling water’s reluctance to begin.
Its tendency is to remain smooth and clear,
to fill the bowl entirely, defining its shape from within,
exerting pressure evenly outward from the center,
expanding to fill empty space. There are some things in nature
whose will is to abide, to bear down, to press smooth.
Yet waves, following no instinct of their own, leap up,
shattering in air. Some force throws them up like that,
and the shattering brings an urge to fall back. This return
is water’s resistance to that breaking. What we see
as the water’s turbulence is really water’s unending calm
in a turbulent world. Splashed up the sides of a bowl,
thrown slant in gusts, spilled over chasms, driven over rocks,
it moves constantly to level, to return. It seals the distance
between earth and sky, mediating every unevenness.
Wherever there is water there is sky pressing down upon it,
seamless and just, water with long winds across its surfaces,
light played in fractals or sheen, the earth tipping beneath,
and water’s instinct to justify those spheres.
From the Dunes
I am the woman often found alone
—or not found. If you think of me,
in your mind’s eye, see no one standing near.
See me filling the space where I am
easily, as an animal does, moving
among the hills and trees.
Part of things, but mistaken for none.
Strong legs, strong lungs, deep sleep
alone at night in a single bunk.
Mornings I take off my shirt in the sun,
dig my toes in cool sand. Giving way
underfoot, the earth answers back: I am.
There is a world apart from what we call
“the world,” where we are alive in our bodies.
I am not talking about beauty, or sex,
or anything you can see with your eyes,
but a place in which we become again
the original animal we were born to be.
I want to grow old here, lusty and brown,
with the wind in my throat.
Then disappear into all of it:
vanish, like dusk into dark,
into the body of air, eye of the moon snail,
dream of the night-feeding fish who rise
to the surface, taken up wholly
into the sky’s imagination of light.
Cynthia Huntington’s latest poetry collection is The Radiant. Former New Hampshire Poet Laureate, she is a professor at Dartmouth College.