The Blue Grotto
Somewhere in this world I will understand
that room: a natural heaven—the personal
swimming hole of the old Augustus—:
What a beautiful crock. Yet
how the boatman swindled us so gently;
we hardly minded. And then—
the violence of the sudden chain breaking
us into the splendor of a new life—
We idled on eternity, out of time.
I stood up in the boat
holding out my arms like a chick
burst from its white shell,
one low blue blaze in an ocean
of blue fire.
Life was full of struggle.
All the struggle of this last epoch
was not over and would not be over,
was a rare sweet wine in a crystal phial
pressed from hours of rain sliding
down in streams the mind’s train window
to be drunk on a day like this, in one straight delicious draught.
So my heart was broken: it would break again,
but my tiny muscles would stand it and my bones
as long as I stayed willing. Let me stay, I prayed,
pure: unapostate and without deceit in the face of being.
Then the boatman began to sing, he rolled
out the opera and the salty local,
he told tall tales and ludicrous jokes
and I laughed. Here, at the end
and beginning of my voyage. For this, this it is:
The island where your name is unhidden
and now you must leave it
as we must leave everything perfect until
we enter that great wide sea.
Somewhere in this world I will understand my life.
Note: The Blue Grotto—“La grotta azzura”—a celebrated natural wonder on the isle of Cápri.
This poem first appeared in PN Review (UK).