You may have heard that over the weekend parts of Valparaíso, Chile were engulfed by a terrible fire that is still threatening the city. I’ve seen different numbers, but thousands of homes have burned, thousands are displaced and at least 12 have died. Valpo is like my third home, a place I lived for 10 months and absolutely love. The photos I’ve seen are devastating. A friend of mine that lives nearby is raising funds for the families of one of the cerros (hills) most affected by the fire. She has also included the links for different national organizations to donate to if you feel so inclined.
Yesterday I did a repeat poet for the month, and I’m going to continue the trend today. I wrote earlier this month about how much I love Theodore Roethke’s The Waking. Like that poem, today’s selection is melodic, musical, hypnotic. However, unlike The Waking, I see a love poem. A slightly desperate, deeply passionate love poem.
Earlier this month I wrote about my love of Langston Hughes. Part the reason I think he is such a good poet is that he was incredibly versatile: he could write about the horrors of racism, the pain and pleasure of love, the beauty of music, the loneliness of the human condition…the list goes on. And today’s poem shows his use of humor. It has always made me laugh even as it touches on the frustrations of relationships and love.
Today I’m visiting Monterey, a city resting on the southern end of the picturesque Monterey Bay on what is known as Central California’s Pacific Coast. It’s most well-known for its aquarium and John Steinbeck. So what does this have to do with poems? Well, since it is a coastal town, I thought I’d share one of my favorite seafaring poems.
Like yesterday’s post, this poem for me hearkens back to elementary school. When I was in 5th grade, we did an overnight field trip to the C.A. Thayer, a historic shipping vessel that rests in San Francisco Bay. We spent weeks preparing to take over the ship for a night and run it as it would have been run during its heyday of the late 1800s/early 1900s. We were split into crews (I was mate of the Galley Crew, meaning I was in charge of the kitchen group), learned to tie different knots (thank goodness the Galley Crew did not have to tie knots – my inability to do so motivated me to put it as my first choice), sang sea shanties, practiced the boat lingo, researched the time period…it was very intense. This poem was one of the things we learned during this whole experience. I think even if I discovered it today I would like its cadenced flow, but because it’s associated with one of my more special memories from childhood, it holds a special nostalgia.
By John Masefield
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white
And a gray mist on the sea’s face and a gray dawn
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like
a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream with the long trick’s