When I think of debts (other than those to family), I think first of libraries and librarians – God bless them every one. A college professor for more than 30 years, I taught first at Oregon State and since 1992 at Linfield College. Five books of poems carry my name on their spines, including an Oregon Book Award winner (1989) and the most recent two from Jessie Lendennie’s Salmon Poetry, which, delightfully, has a mailing address without a single number in it.
Editor's Note: I asked Lex to tell me something about his inspiration for this fine poem — he wrote:
As for "All Day the Sea," I suppose it must have come from having lived most of my life within an hour's drive from the beach and recognizing at some point that the entirety of the continent (ie the land mass) and the entirety of US history, complicated as it is -- all of that is literally at one's back if you're standing on an Oregon beach and looking west, out to sea. Somehow, seeing one's small self in the midst of vast elements offers odd comfort. William Stafford once said about the Oregon coast that "what ignores people does people good." With luck, I'll be at the beach this weekend.
I say the above as though it's true (which in a way it is), but really all I'm ever doing in the act of making a poem is trying to find and follow and find and follow some line of impulse which hasn't yet language or form except as it emerges... Eventually, it tells me, rather than the other way around.
All Day the Sea
West beyond wish or confusion, the continent
ends: sand islands, riffles and pocket lakes,
steamy fog swirling over eel grass
and beach peas, distant breakers in sunlight
a merging definition of white. Here landscape
and language are the same: the brine-stiff
articulate sleeves of ocean tubers and stalks,
file dogwinkles and doveshells, crab debris —
pincers and the tipped, shallow bowls —
the anonymous polished remains of trees.
All day the sea
is the sky, its darker color, gulls aloft
on bare rumors of wind. All day with no
sensation of motion, we turn slowly, the planetary
turning, until the low sun's glare burns
a corridor on the water-glazed beach.
Amber and deep red ride the horizon's clouds;
barges crawl south, wavering lights
in an ocean of black sound. All evening
salt fires warm our houses, low stars
numerous in their bright sockets. All night
a chorus washes over us in the dark — salt air,
salt air and the constant tide.
-reprinted from The Admirations, 1989.
©2015 Lex Runciman