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Ocean World


1.
I saw a vast ocean on which sailed the fleets of every navy that had ever
           been. The ocean was still too vast for them. The fleets were specks
           of color on a canvas that was light and movement. Years and months
           fell like snowflakes.
The fleets met rarely, and always without warning: a swell would fall and
           there they'd be, and then they mostly traded.
The Phoenicians traded with the Spanish Armada, and Soviet submarines
           surfaced like whales to swap beluga caviar for bootlegged tapes of
           Frank Sinatra or the Ottoman Empire's famous rugs.
It was easy to communicate when everyone had the same questions: who
           are you? do you know what has happened? have you seen land? have
           you found a way out?

Only once or twice did navies pass each other silent running and the admirals
           would not stop for tea or schnapps, remnants of the old creation, poor
           things.
Only once or twice were shots fired, and those shots fell in sea mist, and the
           men who gave the orders were set adrift on the small boats of their
           disgrace, rudderless and without provisions.

2.
You showed me your crow's nest and how to trust my human eyes, and to
           navigate by stars and sexton, and to smell with my sea nose where
           we'd been. I learned that solitude is riches.
And when I showed you sonar—that to hear is to see—you stood transfixed,
           and afterwards played such strange music on your flute your
           shipmates had to listen and had to admit the beauty of it though
           many did not want to.

3.
What kind of prison is this, with the windows and the doors wide open? And
           a map transmitted endlessly, in the rat-a-tat of rigging in a stiff breeze,
           in the cry of seagulls at sunset, in the path the moon paves on the
           waves: live in peace live in peace live in peace live in peace, until
           we get it right.


Alpay Ulku

American Poetry Review

September / October 2012


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