Kieran Egan

When the moon goes away from Dover beach

Some love the sound of the ocean,
the tides rippling over pebbles,
the hiss of waves on sand,
the grating roar of breakers—
its endless ebb and restless flow.

But one day soon the moon will move away
and the oceans will come slowly to a standstill,
leaving a melancholy, long, withdrawing silence.
The sea will be calm tonight and every night:
those placid acres, that darkling plain’s taut surface
whose leaden water hangs like mercury.

When the intrusive moon is gone—
inconstant, in the end faithless—
the wind and sea will be alone at last,
and we will become expert in the new shapes
into which wind moves tideless water.

Demosthenes long ago,
mouth full of stones,
would have faced no challenge from this turbid sea,
and into Sophocles’ mind
the lack of ebb and flow
would bring again his certainty
that love alone can free us
from all the weight and pain of life,
and by this distant northern shore
dissolve the grief we cause ourselves
searching for absent waves on this featureless plain.

Ah, love, come
let us walk along the unchanging shore line.
The flat water looks as though its surface
could hold us up, if we had faith.
The black heads of seals poke through its membrane,
then return to their buried life, benumbed,
with the incurious fish.

Give me your hand.
The moonless sky, the heavy waters,
can bring calm to minds
no longer unsettled by the restless sea.

Kieran Egan lives in Vancouver, Canada. His poems have appeared High Window (UK), Orbis (UK), and many other magazines in Canada, the Uk, and America.