Tag Archives: water

The Decisive Drop


The Question, sloping down the wet black blocks
calling the name that pounds the dark
Keep off, it said, we’ll always be apart
Had I grasped the decisive drop
held it close, never asked,
would I  have kept
the water


Using intuition you ask your artistic question and decide almost simultaneously. – Henri Cartier-Bresson



All That’s Buoyant

And she was unperturbed. She was cold. How did it happen, that something no longer mattered, that it had been judged inessential?
James Salter, All That Is (220)


All That Is by James Salter concerns the adult life of Philip Bowman. His life, not so much as a search for love but more a drifting, swelling,  rip tide, crashing into or reeling from love. All other mundane details of his life, while interesting, are decorative but not essential. Love is water- it’s just the profound weight of it all: the liquidity of love, slipping through your fingers, keeping you afloat, or dashing your heart against the rocky shore, the weight of the water is always there.

“People deceive you,” she said softly.
“Yes.” (120)

Sometimes you get caught up in a book, in a story, and it feels like a dream, every pore gets immersed in a world of the other. It’s like the writer creates an ocean, and you swim out to meet the surf. For some books you swim further in than others, and you can never know, just by looking, how far your own stroke takes you and how much the tide of the story is taking you as it would take anyone.

He was not depressed, but was living with the feeling of injustice. (187)

It’s not accidental that I saw myself under water, then swimming at a quick clip, then gasping for breath, as I read the story. Salter begins and returns to the ocean again and again throughout the book. Everything begins in the water.

The other day I swam out to the middle of a lake. There was no one else around. I swam straight out to the middle, I love placing myself in the center of a large expanse of water with the blue sky above…it’s not easy to float in fresh water, but floating may be one of my favorite things to do so I am well practiced. Without the salt’s assistance, I had to arch my head all the way back and let my feet dangle straight down, toes pointing towards the deep. My arms stretched away to let my chest rise, keeping me afloat. The water made a tight circle around my face, and I bobbed there in a sacrificial pose for some lovely minutes. That moment of staying perfectly still in the water, surrendering to the water, breathing, breathing, so as to not disturb anything was exactly how All That Is left me.

She wanted to talk. There were some things she wanted to say, but she did not. She sat silent. (284)

Becalmed, I suppose. The reading. The floating. The heartbreak. It’s a state in which the danger of sinking is avoided, and yet- it’s always there. Under the pull of the weight, heavy and lugubrious, is something mournful, mesmerizing yet out of reach. The water is invigorating and essential. It is also dark, deep and mysterious. And still, we float, seems we shouldn’t, but we do. Salter’s prose quietly touches on, and moves through, all of these elements- some lovely minutes is all that is.

In Deep

IMG_1266Afraid to move or breathe
lest I disturb this exquisite hold.
Floating in a frozen sea,
waiting in forlorn
anticipation of release
or the ripe tide of
my wavering executioner.
But you know, my stroke is yare
Only the force of my breath
could betray me.
That rapturous roil
at the helm of our heart,
the shock of being heard
never less than the screaming
silence of my drowned desire.
Quietly, ever so quietly
the dark water is deep,
Assassin, I am already
belly up.

JA /2013

photograph taken by Eric Accardi

The Deep

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider–
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give–yes or no, or maybe–
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

~William Stafford

This poem was sent to me today by a very sweet person. Thank you sweet person. To know what occurs but not recognize the fact. Yeah. There is that. I had a dream this morning in the fleeting moments before I woke, I spent half the day lost in its sensory detail: an interlude without the betrayal of my mind.

Walking down a street I suddenly turned left
onto a large wide winter-clean boardwalk
rising up over the descent down to the ocean.
The water was transparent, each grain of sand a cause for celebration.
There were no thoughts in my head.
In the folding of the dream, now naked,
I was running towards the water.
So clear. A perfect steel grey.
Not knowing I was going to do it,
I dove in hands leading and swam out through
the lumbering waves and into the deep.
The water! The water! So cold it had no temperature,
so clean it had no weight,
I swam until my memory of the littoral plane almost snapped
and then I turned around and began the swim back:
aware that my limbs were becoming numb,
my motion disorganized and strained by
the paralysis of the the intense clean cold.
I never thought I wouldn’t make it back to the shore.