“Undertow”

This has been my generally favorite thing since I found it last week. I’ve been reading it a couple times a day since, and it still hits me every time – it’s like being grabbed by the sternum and then having the rug pulled out from under my innards. whaaaaaat. But no, seriously, I love and am extremely envious of this poem.

Undertow

People looking at the sea,
makes them feel less terrible about themselves,
the sea’s behaving abominably,
seems never satisfied,
what it throws away it dashes down
then wants back, yanks back.
Comparatively, thinks one vice president,
what are my frauds but nudged along
misunderstandings already there?
I can’t believe I ever worried
about my betrayals, thinks the analyst
benefitting facially from the sea’s raged-up mist.
Obviously I’m not the only one suffering
an identity crisis knows the boy
who wants to be a lawyer no more.
Nothing can stay long, cogitates the dog,
so maybe a life of fetch is not a wasted life.
And the sea heaves and cleaves and seethes,
shoots snot out, goes to bed only to wake
shouting in the mansion of the night, pacing,
pacing, making tea then spilling it,
sudden outloud laughter snort, Oh what the
heck, I probably drove myself crazy,
thinks the sea, kissing all those strangers,
forgiving them no matter what, liars
in confession, vomitters of plastics
and fossil fuels but what a stricken
elixir I’ve become even to my becalmed depths,
while through its head swim a million
fishes seemingly made of light
eating each other.

– Dean Young

“raged-up mist,” “cogitates the dog”! I need to find and read more Dean Young, clearly. One or two of the more obviously sonically playful bits sound more decorative than meaningful (it’s mainly “stricken / elixir” that bothers me), but overall this poem is so on. The humor, the psychological understanding, the perfect fit and clarity of the final image…

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