John Isbell: Two Poems
Lahaina, 1993 | Sandcastle Entropy
Above the black sea, half a world away,
above the still peak of Haleakalá
strides the Great Bear in a field of stars.
I am waist-deep in this too-warm ocean,
naked to the moonlight;
and at my hip, the tug of dissolution.
Has the spinning globe brought me for baptism
as the old year dies, by my calendar?
I am lost at the waist amid the alien palms,
rinsed of this clinging flesh in black and silver.
The rot had set in, but the source was hidden.
People ran back and forth with briefs and opinions,
But were not up to the task. Meetings were called.
They went over the numbers again. Slowly
The castle walls subsided, and the tide had not yet arrived.
The sand was not wet enough: with infinite care,
They applied water, and great masses of wall sloughed off.
The sandcastle was being repossessed.
Nobody on the beach noticed the desperate struggle:
The sand-spattered children hunkered down,
Gazing with broken eyes upon their ruin,
Conceding this and that to Fate
As they recalled what pride had brought them there.
Their dream of beauty and power was gone.
As sandy children and toys were gathered up,
The tide reached through the walls and levelled them;
It brought all structure even with the sand,
Save a dip where water pooled and drained away.
John Isbell has published poems in Poetry Durham and on a politics website, Open Source Politics. He is the author of 5 books, including The Birth of European Romanticism (Cambridge University Press), 2 French critical editions, and the exhibition catalog The People's Voice: A Romantic Civilization, 1776-1848 (Lilly Library, 1999). He has also published over 20 articles, all on Romanticism and the period 1776-1848 in the West. He received his Ph.D. from Cambridge University in 1991 and was a French literature professor at Indiana University, 1993-2001. He works at Bloomington's homeless shelter and Tibetan temple, runs a Kerry campaign group, and is moving into charity work full-time with the mentally ill.