Rosy Moon Off Charleston Harbor, L. Birge Harrison, 1912 (Wikimedia Commons).



The esplanade. High summer.
The sea is beyond

the sunset’s light—
the shapes amassed, the sky

a current carrying us along,
heavy with that green and that black.

Fate’s precisive wheel revolving,
force’s writhing wheel—

the stealing, the killing, accomplished
by new types of half-monsters—

it’s what I said—
the poem is the dream, a dream technique;

the primary soul-substance
on which our attention is fixed—

supernal, metaphysical—in other words,
a representation,

as we have seen,
of mythical origins.

Something felt, something needed—
as much as we needed;

a woman, a man,
love’s characters, the myth

their own. We are agreed.
The moon is low, its silent flame

across the garden of roses, almost level
with the harbor. We place our hands

on the silence
and, once again, repeat the vow.


From A Certain Clarity: Selected Poems (2020, Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Used with permission.

Lawrence Joseph is the author of seven books of poems, most recently A Certain Clarity: Selected Poems (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). He has also written two books of prose, Lawyerland (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) and The Game Changed: Essays and Other Prose (University of Michigan Press). He retired as Tinnelly Professor of Law at St. John’s University School of Law and lives in New York City.

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