Treasure Chest

Poetry by Eamon Grennan


When I'd walked out to the sea surfing and spuming
into meerschaum heaps of lettuce-tinted gauze-
breakers becoming light then noise, the ocean raging
and rearranging this long spit of sand like a life
at the mercy of circumstance-I saw the north wind

drive trillions of sandgrains to scour every last trace
of what the previous tide had done, and gulls snatch
huge clamshells from the swirl and smash them
to get at and gobble each salt, soft-bodied helplessness
at the heart of its own broken home. I felt caught

between water-violence and the gulls' patience;
between the shifting ground I stood on and the thunder-
turbulence of water; between a slowly disappearing
ceiling of cloud and the blue sky-cupola it leaves
behind. Between titanic ocean-roar and ticking heart

was the brink I stood on, taking stock of what hovered
between me and that razor's edge where the horizon
made a seam so sky and sea could greet each other-
the busy depths, pursuit and capture, all the squirm,
scream and riddle-swarm of appetites in mindless action.

Eamon Grennan is from Dublin and has taught for many years at Vassar College, where he is the Dexter M. Ferry Jr. Professor of English. He is the author of a collection of critical essays, Facing the Music: Irish Poetry in the 20th Century. His most recent poetry collections are Still Life with Waterfall, winner of the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, and The Quick of It. Oxford University Press recently published his translation (with Rachel Kitzinger) of Oedipus at Colonus.