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in plain air 189
No running is the doctor's order. Glumly enough
To walk along and watch the other runners run,
And the sky fi res up smoky crimson, and the sun
Slips into a sea suddenly darkening and rough
Out from the shore. Tide's out. Where the sand levels off
And where I like to go, the water's coming on
In terraces, shining layers, the nearest one
So thin it is a skin of light to trudge and scuff
And watch the slowly deepening color on, until
There is my holy of holies: a sandy-fl oored recess
Under the cliff s, half hidden behind a rock outcrop.
Always when I am running this is where I stop
And turn back. What now? Careful! A brief pause, I guess,
With the merest sidelong glance will do or nothing will.
It was a Greek mistake to connect the sacred with the permanent, the sacred being phenomenal
like everything else, and the transient conjunction of chance and those necessities whose most apt
expression is mathematical. Three weeks after this poem was done, the holy place was destroyed
by the combination of a high winter tide and huge waves that changed the shapes of the cliff -
bases and heaped storm-wreckage -- much of it freshly splintered trees -- high up against them.
colleague with a notebook
Beach wide and fl at. I run, dully, on a sheet
Of neutral-colored light, slipping along
In the wet is a blurry quarter moon, a tongue
Of water pushes in quietly over the wet,
Quick-sliding, low-hissing, its tip of foamy white
Entering up the sand. Then I'm among
The seal brown, seal high rocks -- old seals and young
Seaward they slant, alertly -- exposed of late
By the winter tides ... slowly, on the way back,