Poetry on the Beach
4,148 miles from home. Blue Spirit Retreat Center in Costa Rica. The sun is coming up as I sit on the balcony in t-shirt and shorts, in a rocking chair, with my morning cup of coffee. Warm in the morning breeze, I am grateful for this ease of time and space. The view and sound of Pacific waves in the distance.
Yesterday I went by myself to the beach while everyone was doing something else. Down the gravel road – between the palms – out into the open brightness of blue and white. Late morning. I go into the water with no one around. Strong waves and currents with no particular allegiance to tourists encourage awareness. So I float deliciously yet carefully in the warm salt water of this momentary paradise.
Safely out of the water, I air drying off in tropical heat. I unfold my blue camp chair in the shade of the bank, hidden from the harshness of the sun. I break open the book of William Stafford’s poetry that I have brought mainly on the merits of its thinness. I mean to enjoy each poem here. Page one: ‘A Story That Could Be True.’ I read it out loud to myself, alone with the beauty of the beach, the water and the sky. It’s not an amazing poem, but I read it several more times, hoping to find a way inside.
After a few recitations, I find a few lines that might be about me: ‘Then no one knows your name, / and your father is lost and needs you / but you are far away.’ That no one might know my name, I can imagine, but that the consequence of this is that my father (not me) is lost? This is a possibility I hadn’t considered. Certainly my father is lost – lost in so many ways now that he is dead. Maybe he was lost before he was dead. Lost to me – lost to himself.
‘Your father is lost and needs you’
You can take a line from someone else’s poem and learn something you didn’t know. It doesn’t matter what the poet meant, now it is yours and speaks uniquely of your life. Play with it, let it play with you. Roll the words around on your tongue to taste its sound and allow it to mean new things.
So I spend the morning with this one poem, uncovering precious shells of meaning on the beach of these uneven lines. I put it them all in a side-pocket of my mind to nourish me on the journey ahead. Each sounding of the poem, a prayer to life.