Monica Ferrell

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).