From here you can see the tide
turn like a door on its hinges:
We’re just going out.
Do you want anything
from the ocean?
I read this poem last week on a sign overlooking the tidal Piscataqua River as it flows past Portsmouth, NH into the sea.
That’s Maine on the far shore. Both states border the massive Gulf of Maine (Cape Cod to the Maritime Provinces) where high tides flow fast and inexorable, lapping right up to the dock, and the low tides disappear like nothing down into the mud. When the Piscataqua’s tidal currents turn on their hinges they can be deadly; its flow is the third fastest in the US.
In Maine I visited my friend Sally Smith in East Boothbay. She took me sailing (we were careful about the tides), fed me lobster roll and showed me her paintings, including this one of a fisherman’s camp at low tide, temporary beach. (She was the fabulous artist in our Point Lobos poetry book.)
Tides on the move, as the Portsmouth poet says, are like going out for dinner. Actually both lunch and dinner, since they come twice a day. I looked up the poet, Robert Dunn, and he was your basic charming eccentric poet with the simplest of lives, working part-time at the library and roaming the streets selling his poetry chapbooks for a penny, insisting on giving 99 cents change for a dollar, refusing copyright. A friend poet wrote a tribute to him called “The Penny Poet of Portsmouth.”
What is it about poetry and tides? Both rise from a force surprising yet inevitable, incarnating power, change, mystery, fluidity. “I must go down to the sea again, to the call of the running tide.”
Even scientists wax poetic when trying to explain the tides: Rachel Carson wrote, “The winds, the sea and the moving tides are what they are. If there is wonder and beauty and majesty in them, science will discover these qualities. If there are not there, science cannot create them. If there is poetry in my book about the sea, it is not because I deliberately put it there, but because no one could write truthfully about the sea and leave out the poetry.”
On our Blue Theology service trips and pilgrimages we write poetry and prayers while walking by the sea, inspired by the mystery and majesty of the Monterey Bay tides. I write these “Blue Theology Tide-ings” (get it?) every Wednesday. Bluetheology.com