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Original Poem: "a salt sea" with Commentary

Writing poetry became my major composing activity circa 1962, & Mr. Malcolm Sedam's creative writing class in 1963-64 deepened my interest.

Pacific Ocean at Encinitas -  photo by Linda Sue Grimes

Pacific Ocean at Encinitas - photo by Linda Sue Grimes

Introduction and Text of "a salt sea"

As an American or Innovative sonnet, the poem, "a salt sea," features free verse, a variable rhythmic scheme, and no discernible rime scheme. Using the descriptor label of "movement," which is the free verse equivalent of "stanza" or "versagraph," the commentary reveals that the poem does follow the Elizabethan three-quatrains-and-a-couplet format.

(Please note: The spelling, "rhyme," was introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson through an etymological error. For my explanation for using only the original form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error.")

While this poem could well reveal a speaker describing her relationship with a human lover, the universality of its imagery—"listen to the ocean in your ear," "boundary of the skin," and "language you wish you could learn"— suggest that much more is at stake here than a mere human, physical relationship.

A Word About Interpretation

Poems that focus on spiritual subjects always employ metaphoric imagery because there is no human language to describe the spiritual level of being which remains ineffable. Interpretation of language used to describe the ineffable remains essentially the same kind of interpretation employed to elucidate and analyze through explication any poetic, literary devices, or tropes, including but not limited to image and metaphor. As the writer of this piece, I bring a level of certainty that might be considered inevitable but should not be considered final.

Readers will always take from any discourse as much as their own experience allows them to carry. However, after poets tell you what is going on in their poems, you should use that information to help guide your own thinking, but never substitute their claims for your own thoughts. While poets surely knows what they wanted to say, they can never be sure that they actually succeeded in saying it. Thus, there is always room for improvement in human communication, regardless of the skill set that the poet may bring to his/her works.

a salt sea

as you navigate your waters,
a salt sea pulsates your body.
a blood river meanders through it.
in the push and flow you examine your eyeball

and listen to the ocean in your ear,
but you can never find the boundary of the skin.
you never know where you should end and he might begin:
you feel you are a wave and he is the sand.

or he is a long strand of kelp and you are the forest.
maybe you are a school of fish and he is the food
they throw from the glass-bottom boat.
maybe both of you are the salt,

or he is a shark, or just a friendly dolphin
whose language you wish you could learn.

Commentary

This American sonnet focuses on the various metaphors that a beginning yogi might use to describe her relationship to the Ultimate Goal of her yoga practice.

First Movement: Three-Quarters Water

as you navigate your waters,
a salt sea pulsates your body.
a blood river meanders through it.
in the push and flow you examine your eyeball

The human body is about three quarters water. The meditating yogi must "navigate" the churning water of the body, finding her safe vessel of stillness in order to reach the goal of meditation. In this instance, the term "navigate" metaphorically represents the practice of yoga exercises, the purpose of which is to calm the body so it can sit still in the meditation posture.

The meditating yogi keeps her attention at the point between the eyebrows; thus, the term "eyeball" is also functioning metaphorically as the yogi is transcending employment of the physical eyes in order to contact the spiritual eye, sometimes called "third eye," or "eye of God."

Second Movement: Speculation and Awareness

and listen to the ocean in your ear,
but you can never find the boundary of the skin.
you never know where you should end and he might begin:
you feel you are a wave and he is the sand.

The beginning yoga practitioner may have difficulty knowing if or when she has reached the various levels of awareness. So she may speculate about what those levels are. The speaker likens those levels to physical objects; metaphorically is the only way a spiritual seeker can express the ineffable. Her first suggestion is that she might be "a wave" and the ineffable "the sand."

Third Movement: Life Comes in Pairs

or he is a long strand of kelp and you are the forest.
maybe you are a school of fish and he is the food
they throw from the glass-bottom boat.
maybe both of you are the salt,

The speaker continues her catalogue of possibilities for where she might end and the ineffable begin. She suggests pairs of "a long strand of kelp and you are the forest," a school of fish and food. She then guesses that maybe they both are the salt.

Fourth Movement: Learning the Language

or he is a shark, or just a friendly dolphin
whose language you wish you could learn.

In concluding her speculation, the speaker makes a startling suggestion and then tempers it a bit: maybe the ineffable is a shark. The sobering thought causes her to backtrack and replace the shark with a dolphin—"a friendly dolphin," by the way. And she wishes she could learn the dolphin's language—just as meditating yogis practice learning the language of their yogic Goal, the Divine Reality.

(A slightly different version of this poem under the title, "This Salt Sea," appears in my collection of poems titled Turtle Woman & Other Poems.)

Pacific Ocean, Encinitas  CA

Pacific Ocean, Encinitas CA

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes

Comments

Linda Sue Grimes (author) from U.S.A. on May 28, 2018:

Thank you, Natalie! I do love this poem, one of my favorites. It does dramatize the dilemma of a beginning yogi. I love ocean imagery. Thus I had a great time composing both the poem and the commentary.

Natalie Frank from Chicago, IL on May 28, 2018:

What a wonderful work. The commentary really adds to it. It is so rare that we get to see the thinking of a poet behind their own pieces. Thank you for that glimpse.

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