Monday, September 14, 2009

the importance of horizons; or, a poem by my best good friend Erik

Three Early Letters to Edward Kennedy

Wednesday, August 26, 2009
By Erik Armstrong

Today, sir, the harbor mourns
the loss of its longest sailor,
each sail drawn closed
tightly against night's slow wail
into dawn. Morning revealed
to us an entire ocean
shivering with the ripples
of some great stone dropped
from such a height
as to shake us all
gathered here on the shore, afraid
the water too rough to sail,
the mouth too far to reach,
the horizon now closed.

So many have left us,
haven't they? Brothers
we have dearly loved
taken from us without understanding
and order we mortals require
to believe
it was all worth it.


Is it enough
to be good
and decent?
To right wrongs,
to heal suffering,
to stop war?
Yes, you have said,
it is enough
in this long world
to devote yourself
to simple actions,
and in death you will not
stand larger
than you were
in life. You were large enough
without embellishment,
your booming voice
calling across the valley,
your shadow stretching long
across this great plain
teaching us
how to cry
against the night,
how to stand up
day after day
in this bright, warm,
and ever failing light.
My friend Erik wrote this the morning that Ted Kennedy died.  I was not as stirred by Kennedy's death as it seemed that those around me were; but I was stirred by this poem.  Especially the first stanza. The imagery of the closed horizon is haunting. 

To me, the sea represents open spaces. Freedom. Escape. All things that I find pretty important. I love Melville's Moby Dick; or the White Whale (yes, that is where the "Or" in my blog comes from). And, I think one of the reasons I do, yes there are many reasons, but this is one, is because I know that I would run away to sea. Even knowing what lies before him,  I am envious of Ishmael. 

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