Yesterday afternoon I drove two hours north to play music with my band. Afterward, through the darkening and the dark, I drove back to Portland. I listened to the voice of Elizabeth Bishop reading her poem "At the Fishhouses." My car slipped into and out of the river of red taillights. It swept off the exit, up the curve of Munjoy Hill, onto the urbane peace of the Eastern Promenade. The lights of Falmouth glittered across the invisible bay. I stopped at a stop sign. I turned right sedately. I parked behind the house where I live. I walked up the stairs and opened a door.
Disorder surrounds order. Fear surrounds contentment. A loved face smiles from the kitchen. Reading the news, my heart beats fast, like the cat's does, when he sits on my shoulder and I walk him to the road edge. A bicycle, a bus, a corgi are his terrors, but he yearns for the fragrance of the world.
I have seen it over and over, the same sea, the same,
slightly, indifferently swinging above the stones,
icily free above the stones,
above the stones and then the world.
If you should dip your hand in,
your wrist would ache immediately,
your bones would begin to ache and your hand would burn
as if the water were a transmutation of fire
that feeds on stones and burns with a dark gray flame.
If you tasted it, it would first taste bitter,
then briny, then surely burn your tongue.
It is like what we imagine knowledge to be:
dark, salt, clear, moving, utterly free,
drawn from the cold hard mouth
of the world, derived from the rocky breasts
forever, flowing and drawn, and since
our knowledge is historical, flowing, and flown.
--from "From the Fishhouses"