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A Distance From The Sea Analysis

Author: poem of Weldon Kees Type: poem Views: 10

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To Ernest Brace

"And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was

about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying unto

me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and

write them not.
"                           --REVELATIONS, x, 4.

That raft we rigged up, under the water,

Was just the item: when he walked,

With his robes blowing, dark against the sky,

It was as though the unsubstantial waves held up

His slender and inviolate feet. The gulls flew over,

Dropping, crying alone; thin ragged lengths of cloud

Drifted in bars across the sun. There on the shore

The crowd's response was instantaneous. He

Handled it well, I thought--the gait, the tilt of the head, just right.

Long streaks of light were blinding on the waves.

And then we knew our work well worth the time:

The days of sawing, fitting, all those nails,

The tiresome rehearsals, considerations of execution.

But if you want a miracle, you have to work for it,

Lay your plans carefully and keep one jump

Ahead of the crowd. To report a miracle

Is a pleasure unalloyed; but staging one requires

Tact, imagination, a special knack for the job

Not everyone possesses. A miracle, in fact, means work.

--And now there are those who have come saying

That miracles were not what we were after. But what else

Is there? What other hope does life hold out

But the miraculous, the skilled and patient

Execution, the teamwork, all the pain and worry every miracle involves?

Visionaries tossing in their beds, haunted and racked

By questions of Messiahship and eschatology,

Are like the mist rising at nightfall, and come,

Perhaps to even less. Grave supernaturalists, devoted worshippers

Experience the ecstasy (such as it is), but not

Our ecstasy. It was our making. Yet sometimes

When the torrent of that time

Comes pouring back, I wonder at our courage

And our enterprise. It was as though the world

Had been one darkening, abandoned hall

Where rows of unlit candles stood; and we

Not out of love, so much, or hope, or even worship, but

Out of the fear of death, came with our lights

And watched the candles, one by one, take fire, flames

Against the long night of our fear. We thought

That we could never die. Now I am less convinced.

--The traveller on the plain makes out the mountains

At a distance; then he loses sight. His way

Winds through the valleys; then, at a sudden turning of a path,

The peaks stand nakedly before him: they are something else

Than what he saw below. I think now of the raft

(For me, somehow, the summit of the whole experience)

And all the expectations of that day, but also of the cave

We stocked with bread, the secret meetings

In the hills, the fake assassins hired for the last pursuit,

The careful staging of the cures, the bribed officials,

The angels' garments, tailored faultlessly,

The medicines administered behind the stone,

That ultimate cloud, so perfect, and so opportune.

Who managed all that blood I never knew.

The days get longer. It was a long time ago.

And I have come to that point in the turning of the path

Where peaks are infinite--horn-shaped and scaly, choked with


But even here, I know our work was worth the cost.

What we have brought to pass, no one can take away.

Life offers up no miracles, unfortunately, and needs assistance.

Nothing will be the same as once it was,

I tell myself.--It's dark here on the peak, and keeps on getting


It seems I am experiencing a kind of ecstasy.

Was it sunlight on the waves that day? The night comes down.

And now the water seems remote, unreal, and perhaps it is.


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