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Atlantis

c. 1993 by Mark Doty

I thought your illness a kind of solvent
dissolving the future a little at a time;

I didn't understand what's to come
was always just a glimmer

up ahead, veiled like the marsh
gone under its tidal sheet

of mildly rippling aluminum.
What these salt distances were

is also where they're going:
from blankly silvered span

toward specificity: the curve
of certain brave islands of grass,

temporary shoulder-wide rivers
where herons ply their twin trades

of study and desire. I've seen
two white emissaries unfold

like heaven's linen, untouched,
enormous, a fluid exhalation. Early spring,

too cold yet for green, too early
for the tumble and wrack of last season

to be anything but promise,
but there in the air was white tulip,

marvel, triumph of all flowering, the soul
lifted up, if we could still believe

in the soul, after so much diminishment...
Breath, from the unpromising waters,

up, across the pond and the two-lane highway,
pure purpose, over the dune,

gone. Tomorrow's unreadable
as this shining acreage;

the future's nothing
but this moment's gleaming rim.

Now the tide's begun
its clockwork turn, pouring,

in the day's hourglass,
toward the other side of the world,

and our dependable marsh reappears
--emptied of that starched and angular grace

that spirited the ether, lessened,
but here. And our ongoingness,

what there'll be of us? Look,
love, the lost world

rising from the waters again:
our continent, where it always was,

emerging from the half-light, unforgettable,
drenched, unchanged.

SOURCE: "Atlantis" is a set of six poems by Mark Doty; it's the heart of his 1994 collection Atlantis. Three of the six are dream-centered. The World Dream Bank normally excludes nondream poems, but these are so powerful and compassionate I've made an exception and posted all six: 1 Faith - 2 Reprieve - 3 Michael's Dream - 4 Atlantis - 5 Coastal - 6 New Dog



LISTS AND LINKS: chronic illness - AIDS - death - gay men - love - grief - birds - by the sea - Another dreamer, another marsh: Time-Bubble

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