High Seas and Low Tides
Marilyn Robertson's poem, "Low Tide," from California Quarterly Summer 2021, is a real gem that just might slip past your eye because it's only ten lines long, tucked in the upper left corner on page thirty-six of this excellent issue of a consistently finely edited and printed journal.
What's eye-catching about this poem is the way Robertson gets the most out of every word and every poetic choice. It'd be a really long blog if I pointed everything right in this little poem, so I'll just touch on the highlights and you can tell me what you find that I left out.
The first line of the poem is: "I like the moreness of time at low tide." Clearly, the word "moreness" is the flash in the line, but equally as smooth, if not as obvious, is the way Robertson connects her experience to time, rather than to the sea itself. She sees the retreating water as a gap in time where she can "stretch" and "sigh" and maybe build (or not build) a sand castle. She writes:
Time for a stretch, a sigh
Time for nothing perfect.
The repeating of the first word "time" in consecutive lines is an obvious time-like device, like seconds ticking away. The next stanza describes sand, a blue bucket, and a pile orange peels in simple diction that emphasizes that it is the gap in time, not necessarily the particular specifics of place, that define the experience.
The poem concludes:
The nearness of far away.
The sparkle of here and now.
Here, the last word "now" forms a delayed, slant-rhyme with the "low" in "low tide" from the opening line. This links the idea of low tide and the freedom from time together in a declarative image: "The sparkle of here and now." The rhyme surprises and cements the sentiment simultaneously.
Robertson has described a true transcendental moment. Standing beside the sea, the poet literally moves beyond time to a moment of pure creation and possibility.
Further points of interest: the stanza form helps promote s sense of harmony and regularity like the coming and going of the tides, or the passing of time. Two tercets alternate with two couplets to complete a ten line poem that should have won someone's brilliancy prize. Really, I'm leaving out many of the most striking elements. Go read the poem and see what you find.
California Quarterly Summer 2021 is a great read with a sixty pages of poems. There's even one by me, "Jar of Flowers," that I'd like your opinion on. Some have called it too sentimental.
Speaking of which, watch this space for an announcement about my "Four Sea Poems" due to be published over at Kelp Journal. They should be out any day! Hit talk above or below to let me know your thoughts.
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