Anywhere where every
Sideslip of the beaming sea
Founders in the wear and tear
Off of drowning Waikiki,
Where those summery dream lips
Kiss air in the lisping tide,
The endless drifting tips of wave
And sun our fish eyes subdivide
Into liquid bits of twisting light,
Lips the breaking pandemonium
Of sky the sunlit finite
Crush of mist and foam
Awakes, rides the gaping open bight
Between the rush of home
And distant piling landless night.

February 13th, 2002

November 29th, 2005

Rancho Santa Fe
December 21st and 22nd, 2005


This is my attempt to open up Bach’s Fugue in C Minor from the first book of The Well-Tempered Clavier, to release and unleash it from its mathematical astringencies and contingencies, from its Teutonic duties, into a freer island state where it might also show some emotion and splash around in the lagoon.
Inverting its main theme with a “turn,” or inverted mordent, or trill (specifically, the note itself, the note below it, and the note again), the ebb and flow of its incessant waves take on the slower, deeper tide of a vaster ocean, rather than the frenetic attempts of pianists and poets simply to keep afloat in its chilly technique.
So I have taken my theme and subjected it to the same sort of intimidating asexual manipulation linguistically as Bach does to his shivering music (at least as it is usually inexorably performed), in the hopes that I can discover a lower, fogbound tone, that sea of Faith which Matthew Arnold and Sophocles and Godard heard long ago on the Aegean.
I was also thinking of the film The Incredible Shrinking Man, that same man staring out into the infinite distance of his own tear, the vast, unreachable sea he has just created in his giant, bold past for his dwindling, tiny future, and I was thinking how, in the hubris of creation, we dare to disturb the universe and turn our small grief into a global metaphor, as Bach does, and so worlds of water suggested themselves as decent company for Bach’s fluid, oceanic puns.
(In rewatching the film, I cannot find that scene anywhere, so I may have invented it.)
“Everywhere” is the theme, and “where every” reverses it, imitating Bach’s reversal of his notes, and “forever” “very,” and “airy” are variations on its versed and reversed reverie.
Secondary notes are echoed in the correlations between “air,” “airy,” “where,” and “very,” as well as between “lid,” “lip,” lapping, luminescent, into the depths of the distance.
The poem finally slides into “eye” and “night” rhymes, as well as “sees” and “seethes” and “sea” sounds in its descent into the depths of the distance.
This is one of my word fugues.