Madeline DeFrees’s poem “The Book of Sediments” appeared in our Fall 1983 issue. Her last collection, Spectral Waves, was released by Copper Canyon Press in 2006; DeFrees passed away last year.
Beside my bed the lamplight glows: a glass basefilled with shells containingnews of ocean. Each shell encloses what the seasays to the listener. Each whorl and coilreflects the secrets there.
Echo and Narcissus.He falls in love with the image: his visionflowers. She pines away for the other: nothingleft but the voice. The sun-drownedsepals in the old stereoscope we calleda stereopticon: two complementary views—righteye and left—caught on film the brainregisters and light fuses to a third dimension.
We let those wave-lengths tell us what the worldmeans, a corollary of echo-location: different densities sending bulletinsfrom underwater. Ship Harbor Inn: we sleptabove the Sound—frogs and cricketsa fluttering circle on the ear’s horizon. Thatone long note, the foghorncutting in and out of sleep.
Waves know theirburden of heavy minerals by weight. Neatly,they sort them out in ocean’s bed of separatedeposits: gold from monazite, redgarnet from zircon. Disaster always in their wake, waves stumble onsifting platinum from chromite, grain by grain.Some, considering the ocean
prospect, have madethemselves minor profits. Othershave gone for broke. Isn’t that Gruber, therenext to the breeches’buoy? The 300-pound quarryman we left, too fatto fit in, refusing to be tied? His mid-section circled by two life-preservers,he made it finally in a bo’s’n’s chair, the firstto pass dry-shod.
And now the ferry docksbriefly at Shaw Island: a brown-robed nun,Franciscan in pill-box hat with veil attached,runs down the gangplank in sandals.Clank of heavy chains, and then the doubledissolve into Friday
Harbor and the Whale Museumwhere we saw a brain three times our size.Remember the days we took to let the sea settle?Bald Hill and Dinner Island? Cape San Juanand Sunset Point. I tried the publictelephone: a killer whalewas on the line, and everywhere we looked was light and water.
—from “The Light Station on Tillamook Rock”
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