"Sea Level"

A weekly poem, read by the author.
May 11 2010 7:19 AM

"Sea Level"

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear  Kim Van Voorhees read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.
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So this is what the ocean has been pushing across the table at us
all these years—

the dry, white spot that opens like a moon at the back of the throat
the quieted tongue, the last of all words.

Our ever-faithful dinner guest—who kept her wet fingers lined up at the edge
of the world, who politely folded and refolded her napkin—stops
passing the peas, leans back quietly into her chair to watch

what we'll do now.  She's done, the sea quits, stands without comment on the shore, is
just another dumb, beautiful animal considering the cliff, the final leap
back into itself.

At least say we were among those who kept the conversation up for so long—
you and I handed always and never back and forth again and again

while our arms distressed the surface.
Let's just say the table was too large, that we lifted the heaviest dish
and got tired—

that only the ocean knows how to spoon salt over a great distance
under any kind of light.

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Kim Van Voorhees teaches English literature at Lake Forest Academy. "Sea Level" is her first published poem.