Saturday, August 28, 2010

Beach Glass

Classes at QTU begin on Monday. The moms are spending time with dear friends on the Jersey shore this weekend, taking walks, fiddling with syllabi, drinking wine, falling into reveries, and thinking in poems. It's the kind of thing that happens as the light shifts late in August and we begin to move to a different rhythm. Here's some eye/ear candy, darlings. We'll be back in touch soon.  Peace out.

Beach Glass


While you walk the water’s edge,
turning over concepts
I can’t envision, the honking buoy
serves notice that at any time
the wind may change
the reef-bell clatters
its treble monotone, deaf as Cassandra
to any note but warning. The ocean,
cumbered by no business more urgent
than keeping open old accounts
that never balanced,
goes on shuffling its millenniums
of quartz, granite, and basalt.
                                              It behaves
toward the permutations of novelty
driftwood and shipwreck, last night’s
beer cans, spilt oil, the coughed-up
residue of plastic—with random
impartiality, playing catch or tag
or touch-last like a terrier,
turning the same thing over and over,
over and over. For the ocean, nothing
is beneath consideration.
                                       The houses
of so many mussels and periwinkles
have been abandoned here, it’s hopeless
to know which to salvage. Instead
I keep a lookout for beach glass
amber of Budweiser, chryoprase
of Almadén and Gallo, lapis
by way of (no getting around it,
I’m afraid) Phillips’
Milk of Magnesia, with now and then a rare
translucent turquoise or blurred amethyst
of no known origin.
                              The process
goes on forever: they came from sand,
they go back to gravel,
along with the treasuries
of Murano, the buttressed
astonishments of Chartres,
which even now are readying
for being turned over and over as gravely
and gradually as an intellect
engaged in the hazardous
redefinition of structures
no one has yet looked at.

Amy Clampitt, “Beach Glass” from The Collected Poems of Amy Clampitt. Copyright © 1997 by the Estate of Amy Clampitt. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.

Source: The Collected Poems of Amy Clampitt (1997) (via)

(Photo Credits: Moose, Long Beach Island, NJ, 8/26-7/10)


  1. Anonymous9:41 AM EDT

    What a poem--thanks!

  2. Ouch. Am I right in thinking this is a poem about the long-term futility of intellectual idea-wrangling? that last stanza about the intellect being the turnee rather than the turner-over makes me think of the intellectual equiv. of an Ozymandias.

  3. The moms are spending time with dear friends on the Jersey shore this weekend, taking walks, fiddling with syllabi, drinking wine, falling into reveries, and thinking in poems.

    Jeezus motherfucke!! Telle the moms that there's no suche fucken thinge as "on the Jersey shore". Itte's "down the Jersey shore"!!!!!!!

  4. Don't mess with the moms on this point, CPP. They got Jersey cred runnin' out both wazoos, having earned their PhDs right there at Bruce Springsteen State U (exit 9 on the Turnpike) and spent their first two years together living, yes, DOWN the shore in a little town called Ocean Gate. BUT: When you drive UP from DC, you're going TO the shore and you end up ON it. End of story, my friend.

    @Richard: You may be right about the poem's stance on idea-wrangling, but we love it anyway, as longtime collectors of beach glass. Recycling has seriously depleted the supply of Phillips' Milk of Magnesia bottles on the world's beaches, which is sad for those of us who loved spotting those pretty chunks of lapis in the sand, healthy as it may be for our poor planet.

  5. Don't fucke withe me, dogge! The only way to be "on the shore" is to washe uppe from the fucken ocean.

  6. You say potato, I say take a Valium and chill out, my most excellent plain-speaking friend. My typist was born in Louisville, KY and has never in her life pronounced the name of that fair city "Lou-uh-vlle," which is how media dorks always insist locals pronounce it when they swoop into town for the Kentucky Derby. The point being: When it comes to language, individual results will vary.

    Down, boy.

  7. @RSL You should ahve visited Scotland when you were over there. The combination of bad diet and lack of recycling means plenty of blue glass on the beaches to accompany the beer-bottle ambers.

    @CPP you have ruined Acker Bilk's "Stranger on the Shore" for me, which will now on sound more like a CSI theme than a romantic stroll.

  8. @CPP: No hoagies this year, alas, but steamers, Jersey tomatoes, and a most excellent diner breakfast on the way back south.

    @Richard: rofl.

  9. Feta cheese omelette???? I love those fucken thinges!!!


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