Though you are afraid of heights walk with me along the breakwater
its narrow double-jointed finger crooked straight acroos the flat
plane of the sea, mountains the sun cuts jagged against the distant
shore turning as we turn, each windblown angle we negotiate
widening our prespective, pivoting us farther out than we expect
stepping tentative along concrete poured high above the endless
vertical skindivers travel along below the ocean’s surface, vicarious
tangents you or I might fathomless have followed part way down
with other men, turning waterlogged back, amnesiac and gasping
for air, intake lines tangles, guessing afterwards at wrecks we are
sure must list deeper still, literal and barnacled with what we let fall
inadvertent, turning, slipping unnoticed through the currents past
waving skeins of kelp towards vanishing points few dwell beyond
the lonely plane of the sea a polygon whose arbitrary shapes
alter as we zigzag along, the strait unhinghing, bisected by migrating
birds and Cessnas, tugs and kites, our faces triny with sun-shined
breezes, the extinguised navigation beacon a terminus where unblinking
we stop at the vortex of deafening, unheard-of waves, not caring what
vectors may later point us elsewhere while we take in the fresh sweep
of the horizontals about us: ocean, sky, and shore flat and thunderous
horizons dazzling as lightning shaken out in sheets, the breakwater
the long arms of a compass projecting a direction for every line
across other lines, many lovers walking arm in arm with us or away
our arc ascendant, a half moon carrying us forwards unobserved
under open skies, geometries beyond the everyday plotted on the sea
you and I: both of us graphing possible trajectories of the limitless.
* Please note that changes have been made to this poem since original publication.
Questions and Answers
What inspired “Polygonics”?
I live two blocks from the ocean in Victoria, in the James Bay neighbourhood, so am very close to the Ogden Point breakwater, which, ideally, I like to walk along to its end at least once a week. The view is gorgeous: the Olympic Mountains across the Strait of Juan de Fuca in Washington state, Victoria’s semi-rural western suburbs (Sooke, Metchosin, Colwood), and, of course, the expansive water itself. The breakwater is not straight, but instead angles along, with two slight turns, as it shelters the harbour entrance. I became fascinated by how these turns shifted the geometry of the view as I walked along it, so decided to apply what I observed in the composition of a love poem.
What poetic techniques did you use in “Polygonics”?
The poem is a single run-on sentence that shunts through the lines of each couplet. I chose to eschew most end-line punctuation (the period at the end of the poem is one of the few instances of its use) to create more jarring and interesting enjambments as well as an accelerated speed. The poem draws on several distinct vocabularies (geometry, seascape, diving, to name a few) to create a linguistically rich aural fabric. For me, the poem is an attempt to express intensely observed and lived experience.