Coastal Exchange by Cindy Marvell


Coastal Exchange

by Cindy Marvell

I. The Toss

Running toward the ship, we race the sea breeze

Down the shoulder-shaped slant of the cliff, Sinking intothe gray parking-lot palm

Which cradles the jugglers and all of the gear

In a last embrace.


Just so a thousand tiny fingers felt The brightly quivering soft cloth rounds Swooping and rolling through the misty air And merrily careening into happy hands Before we left Cork.


Festival memories, rain-covered costumes Are cram-jammed into the van, tripping us up As we scramble into the twilight gathering, Finding, waiting, linking, last crisscross chaos Of the journey home.


One long, purple note vibrates through the fog And melts away, and the whole coast of Ireland Shrinks to a thin blue curve as we stand shivering, Watching the marble carpet wake unroll

And stretch toward its source.


II. The Arc When the patterns of the past Seem too sprawling or too thin,

Then the poets of old Eire

Use their pens to rein them in:


From the fairies in the woods To the ferries on the seas: From the islands of Oisin

To the Aengus midst the trees.


I wish that I could dream a past

For circus clowns and troubadours-

Beyond the ring, beyond the street,

In minds that whirl and hearts that beat.


And mold a present, deep and true,

Where juggling blends with thought and sound, Where no one questions what we do

And golden apples cascade round.


But where do perfect patterns form– In blue sea depths or in bright stars? The constellations and the waves Weave space together, near and far.


I toss a thought up to the stars And watch it hover, shining bold Then reach to catch it as it falls But fail to intercept its flight.


It slips right through my sieve-like hand

And sinks to depths of mystery, While our exchange is bound for land And cannot fathom such a height.


Perhaps it will return someday, Sometime when I am old and gray, And bob about the surface waves

To mark the spot-a lost thought’s grave.


II. The Catch

Kerrumph—-back to earth! back to the vans!

As Pembroke’s jagged fingers enclose us My visions fade into the salty wind And I don’t know

Where I have gone

Or been.

Looking back, the faint trail of the ship’s path Haunts St. George’s Channel like a ghost, For in this giant juggle we are but props

To mark the path Of nature’s throws And drops.


What have I been thinking of? Rings and streets Are just like notes or inky letters on a page- Just like the plastic props we use to trace

The plunge and reel Of thoughts and dreams In space.


Now that I think of it, those heady stars

Were probably just the lighthouse lamps

and those weaving, thought-floating waves no more

Than braided ropes Pulling the ship To shore.


So keep your golden apples—silver too—

For we have found our own spheres, sure and swift And round their weather-beaten sides still lurk The smiling arcs

The children made

At Cork.


Cindy Marvell, 1988

Suspended Animation Magazine