Poem

The Great Wave

Ron Slate

I predict, like the one who was sucked to sea 
and returned in an Arabian container ship, 
all small worlds will be dashed and drowned. 

I witnessed this deliverance on a silent television, 
my fingers disquieted a bowl of almonds, 
a librarian called to say Constantinople is on hold. 

The entire surface trembled, an oscillation 
like a bell. When the seismologist said the Eurasian plate
“delivered a blow to our planet,” his words 

were almost enough to renew our belief 
in the earth’s roundness, the tidal sugars and salts 
of our bodies, the atonement of death-camp clerks. 

When I was a child, I discovered my depravity
among the other boys—but we were sanguine all the same, 
with the fortitude to face what we’d found. 

So now, led to abandon the world 
for word of the world’s moments, 
one must be cautious and deliberate. 

I had a dream—high-water marks on the side 
of my house, the aftermath of a deluge 
rising from a spring in the cellar. 

I didn’t realize the floodwaters would recede 
with the violence of their rising, fishing boats 
torn from moorings, dome of the mosque collapsed. 

You who savor the scent of the linden 
live in a small world, and I also speak 
from a cramped provisional space. 

On the stacked ship they videotaped 
as they passed, then circled back to pluck
a single man from floating debris— 

I witnessed this alone on a glowing screen, 
I couldn’t lift an almond to my mouth, 
I was a fallow field ruined by brackish flood, 

but I would choose the wave over the wind, 
I would swamp your world with wreckage, 
I would hold fast to you, and you would be saved. 

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