Michael Gessner

Rookie - 4 Points (Michigan)

Description of Sea Life


What was it, this crippled half-thing
Sidling through thickness, an occasion
For being breathly frail, a glimpse

Of an ancient image in an ancient sea,
One more servant in the urge of the world
To move toward something else as though its life
Was spent trying to break the surface

Where it could never survive alone
And still ascend, I see you ascend
A bridal dress, a headless subject
As though called by another buoy's bell

You would fold in my fist like a white heart,
Filmy pump gathering old sea water,
You gather and disperse, gather to disperse
Propelling yourself, an invalid organ

In the vital motion of the universe
Of nettles, night nettles hundreds rising
Through blue plasma, one turns, a medusan head
With cellular hair all in coils,

Head or heart you were never the comparison
But the unknown expression about to speak
Through the shape of watery human lips.



From The Wisconsin Review

Submitted: Saturday, April 08, 2006
Edited: Saturday, April 08, 2006

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Comments about this poem (Description of Sea Life by Michael Gessner )

  • Rookie Clum Haire (9/20/2008 11:52:00 AM)

    I love this poem. The images it created in my mind were stunning. You should proud of that alone - let alone the metaphors and meanings interwoven into your work about life itself. Wow. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 29 Points Robert Howard (12/6/2006 8:54:00 AM)

    The image I conjured in reading this poem was life turned inside out with internal organs outside our skin. The sensation is of ultimate fragility and vulnerability.

    Robert (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 16 Points William F. Dougherty (12/1/2006 2:45:00 AM)

    Readers might fare better if they read 'Description of Sea Life' as 'Description of the Sea OF Life, ' La Mer. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Mike Finley (4/10/2006 9:07:00 PM)

    I get the marine life idea, but I'm not sure I see it as vividly as I should. But it is still vry affecting.

    What IS this shabby waterlogged bottom-feeding bivalvular thing - is it us? Is it every hapless creature in the world?

    It's like 'Waiting for Godot' acted out by an all-mollusk cast. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie kskdnj sajn (4/8/2006 10:44:00 AM)

    More then a description of sea life, as a reader I felt the disconnection, as much as the linking, and although beautiful, a sad poem. (Report) Reply

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