The ocean's peace deceives. Our empty canvas
drifts into drought, the wheel betrays that helmsman
who cleared the mouths of heresy, the whirlpools
The Middle Sea, tonic of ancient gamuts,
rang his heart home; but loud above its burden
he heard the reefs white noise. Ironic backgrounds
cancelled his cadence —
a vast blue ocean, the green earth beyond it
heavy with voices and an unlearned wisdom.
His father and his mother lost those islands
and left them empty.
Avila bore him, but could never hold him;
Spain was not Spain enough, clear streams turned westward
out of the hills and sought through devious deltas
a grey Atlantic.
His spirit on the waves mapped antique orders,
checkerboard essences he had no faith in:
animal mistrust ran its hot eraser
round the wax contours.
Squeezed between James and Royce, those firm believers,
his mind slipped down the corridors of Harvard,
a citrus pip between the grubby fingers
of Yankee know-how.
Writing in Rome, his pen ran blue with Boston:
steadfast and classical, like all romantics,
kept for his core a mad, dramatic wholeness
put to good uses.
I saw him mantled in the shawls of age,
Don Quixote sane....Odysseus left Calypso
to farm in Ithaca. Trees round his grave bear
lemons and olives.