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Archives: Spring 2001 Table of Contents
Treasure Chest
Poetry by Marvin Bell

Tall Ships

The one who reaches the crow's nest
has to go by way of a boot full of water,
wearing a long rope burn and blue tattoos,
and drinking a bucketful of salt,
and always with an eye big enough to let in a star.

The one who reaches the crow's nest has to go
by the path of most resistance,
leaving the deck behind with childhood wishes
and climbing from the wide life of floors
to the narrow end of the telescope filled by a moon.

The one who reaches the crow's nest absolutely
must want to, rehearsing in dreams
the layout of cat's cradles and spider webs,
forgetting all ordinances and averages,
apathetic to the widening embrace of the planets.

The one who reaches the crow's nest,
the one who tops the mast and the crow's nest,
has to go up by way of the two hands of a pulley,
by following the fists of the clock to noon,
and by turning his face to the blind dial of the cosmos.

Sounds of the Resurrected Dead Man's Footsteps (#14)
1. Lives of the Whales
No larger captive mammal.
Oh but you should see one pitch in the wake.
To have risen from the sea empirical, its song Scriabin a temple.
Its song the quiver of a fork, its song a high nest of bees.
Its infinite longing, its heavy body, its grief.
The pod moving like a constellation past the land.
Body of my body beyond my body.
Loaves of sea bread we commend to you.
The frozen compasses of hulks that failed to cross.
You at a safe distance.
Your blatant disregard of proportion.

2. Old Whalers Church, Sag Harbor
Whose proportion?
Begins spotty moisture, then wind-driven shards.
Whalers Church weather, clapboard days.
Madmen believe the Devil inhabits a whale, swelling it.
Jonah, every man's fear.
Who elsewhere took buffalo for food and warmth.
Here took whales, there being access and harbor.
The oil a rich bonus.
The difficulty seeing oneself so increased.
Therefore, the taut gut strings of harpoon talk.
The annals of marine literature in thankful service to God.

Marvin Bell is the author of seventeen books of poetry and essays, including Nightworks: Poems 1962-2000.
His awards include the Lamont Award from the Academy of American Poets, the Award in Literature from
the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Guggenheim and NEA fellowships, and Senior Fulbright
appointments to Yugoslavia and Australia. Bell is a longtime member of the faculty of the Writers' Workshop
at the University of Iowa, where he is Flannery O'Connor Professor of Letters. He lives in Iowa City, Iowa;
Sag Harbor, New York; and Port Townsend, Washington. In the year 2000, the State of Iowa named him its
first Poet Laureate. Poems here are from Nightworks: Poems 1962-2000 (Copper Canyon Press),
© Marvin Bell 2000, reprinted by permission of the author.

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