Lisa Sewell

Contrarious Passions In A Love

You paddle out in the sleek green canoe
to row back to shore, meander with care

and rush without heed. You want to unnest
but not scare, put back and frighten,

catch sight of the bird as if natural life
and uncanny death depend on it,

requiring nothing and holds you not,
yet can you scape no wise
—the lake an opaque

opalescence, moving somewhere perfectly still,
fed by sound and starved into silence.

Sometimes you dive in to rise up
from the sky, surrender and take prisoners

in the horizontal rhythm, the vertical
anomaly of faith and falseness. The monster

at its core lies quiet as shallowed angels
arise and cry out arise and bark.

Between strokes and during them, a name
calls you back to send you packing,

you fear and hope, you burn, and freeze like ice,
the answer swimming also, the question

drowning on shore. So many to try
and so few, and each one might sink

you afloat though no one knew you could
choose the wrong Henry and be forced

to take the right one. For lessons that stick
are absorbed by flesh and repelled by the mind

and the swimmer's hand caught your jaw
hard as he passed. Though nought you have,

all the world you seize, as though dreaming
and waking, the dream done, the hour early beginning.


Note: Italicized lines and the title are borrowed from Thomas Wyatt's poem "Descriptions of the Contrarious Passions in a Lover."

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© 2003 Electronic Poetry Review