by Steven Heighton
In the wake of a month-long crimson tide,
as if the blighted sea were bleeding out,
phosphorescent plankton lapped the coastline, so every night
the caps of the great combers, luminescing
green in black waters, under a sky-tide of stars,
drew crowds down to Tragos Beach.
Third night somebody went in, and the father
followed with his daughter, fifteen, fearless,
their hands clasped in the caving breakers
buckling and torquing them under
as if to rip her free, her grip
loosening, her body in the sea aglow, looping
isotopic trails as she fought the undertow
in terrified delight, shrieking, swept back
into childhood, yet outbound as well
toward a life to come.
As they broke
surface — sequined against the dark
by countless quanta of light — she seemed no mere
constellation but a cosmos, and even he
with his landlocked heart was portalled back
to earlier joys, and seas, yet by the same swell
cast outward years beyond the coastal
shelf of the familial, to a solo
unmooring: all ties, all selves.
They waded back through blood-warm shallows
and up the beach, the tracks they left
aligned, aglow, and fading.
Governor General’s Literary Award finalist and bestselling author Steven Heighton returns with a collection of laments and celebrations that reflect on our struggle to believe in the future of a world that continues to disappoint us. In The Waking Comes Late, the poet challenges the boundaries of sleep and even death in these meditations on what lies just beneath the surface of contemporary life. These are poems that trouble over the idea of failure even as they continually recommit to the present moment. This is fierce music performed in a minor key.