for Marc McKee and Harold Patrick McKee
Dear Atlantic Ocean, this is what rises
and what really falls. The smoke of the dead
and their thin arms holding the bangles
of nightfall. A ratio hidden in a father
or a dog writes its own closure in one speedy
afternoon. Or hasty, or multiplied as if by
severance. This is how I call to you
in different colors: and this, how I call
to you across an entire ocean and back.
The idea, to recreate a distance beyond itself
in order to send it further west. West of center
and west of any terrible feasible circumference.
And in this loudness I add to you, maybe
it will wake in an infant in his mother’s arms.
Brightly, or if by morning. Not mourning
or cacophony. Not sibilance or similitude.
That a baby will be grown in the years you
continue to rage and in which you rage will
rage like highway. Like you, the great Atlantic
Ocean raises in new directions and dimensions
discordant and collapsant to pillars of buildings
built to gods and queens. Today I walked
under an archway Washington walked through
with a legion of his tired troops. Verily I tell
you, in two or twelve weeks he won the war.
We, too, win a war the dead win. Or we
wantonly fail and keep on. Like two remakes
of it all and we choose the latter. We always
choose the latter. Always sing the ocean
to its home, our home, or any home at all.
To Atlantic Ocean 2 I say, Please let us rise.
To Atlantic Ocean 3 I say, Please let us rise and
rise forever like a clumsy teenager in his prime.
Walking up the set of stairs only to be stopped
by a quarterback and his gang of cronies.
Who self-destructs into a field of watery
foam in front of women, teachers, other teens.
A magnificent hero in a dire and delicate time
of things too hard for men to see. And how
we decline to accept this as an ending as we shift
into the higher registers of the wave. And Oh
how we fall short of the utterance. And can’t
we recall the first time a poem made us feel?
The Atlantic and this pen. This ocean, and this
time, the grandeur and Oh this gentle ground.
Our speed, our home, our calling to each corner
of each ocean that doesn’t know our names.
Our hour, our definitely too-long correspondence
to each ocean that doesn’t know our names
yet stills at our thinking of it stilling and calls
as we call across it with our salty hands
in brine and air and motion that is endless.
Dear Atlantic Ocean, entire. Please talk.
“Hello, Marc. Yes, things are fine. Things
are exceedingly fine. It’s so fine to be alive.”
Thank God there are things that work when we
ask them to. And things that don’t
when all we want is to sleep with one smaller
hand in the segmented palm of our larger hand,
one star that proceeds to shine from the light
of our own dimming hand, dark, segmented
and shining, but always in another direction.
Cary Stough is a Literary Arts MFA candidate at Brown University. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Inter|rupture: a journal of poetry and art, Twelfth House, and Heavy Feather Review.