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“The Red Sea,” by Stephen Edgar

The Red Sea

Lulled in a nook of North West Bay,
The water swells against the sand,
Hardly more liquid than Venetian glass,
In which clear surface, just a little way
From shore, some four or five petite yachts pass
With languid ease, apparently unmanned,
Adrift along the day,

Imagining a breeze to fan
Their motion, though there’s none. Siobhan
Reaches a giant hand down from the sky
And nudges with insouciant élan
The nearest hull, her bended waist mast-high.
That hand is just as magically withdrawn.
So moves the catamaran.

And through the Lilliputian fleet
She, Beatrice and Gabrielle
Wade in the shallows, knee-deep, spaceman-slow,
To fashion their maneuvers and compete
Among the stationed hours to and fro,
While watching through the viscid slide and swell
Of water their white feet,

Made curiously whiter by
That cool light-bending element.
Doubled by shadows on the sand they glimpse
Pipefish and darting fingerlings they try
Impossibly to grab, translucent shrimps
Among the laceweed, seahorses intent
To flee the peopled sky.

Hard to conceive that they should be
Precisely who they are and here,
Lost in the idle luxury of play.
And hard to credit that the selfsame sea
That joins them in their idleness today,
Careless of latitude and hemisphere,
Blind with ubiquity,

Churns elsewhere with a white uproar,
Or wipes the Slave Coast clean of trees,
Or sucks among the scum and floating drums
Of some forgotten outpost founded for
The advent of an age that never comes,
Or bobs the remnants of atrocities
Limply against the shore.

What luck they have. And what good sense
To leave the water with their toys
When called, before their fortunes are deranged.
And still the day hangs in its late suspense
For hours without them, virtually unchanged,
Until the bay’s impregnable turquoise
Relaxes its defense

And sunset’s dye begins to spread
In flood across it to the sand
They stood on, as though, hoping to disown
The blood of all the innocents he’d shed,
Macbeth incarnate or his grisly clone
Had stooped on some far shore to rinse his hand,
Making the green one red.

— Stephen Edgar
From Poetry (January 2008)

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