By Peter Halstead

What a Poem Does

Biting through the tidal rush
Of the water’s ringing slap,
The operator’s tinny gush
Across the tossing gap

Between the wire’s distant source
And the beach’s nearby lap
An undercurrent to divorce
The island’s limpid slip and clap

From a world out of sight
Of the tropic’s lashing trap,
The wind as close as growing night,
The weather heavy on the map

And howling in the cloud,
The sky’s electric semaphore
With its trembling fiber shroud
And constant high-pitched roar

Imposes still a kind of keel
On our endless drifting wants,
Calling up a line as real
As the ocean’s dark response.

Anse des Cayes, St. Barths
May 20th–29th, 1995