Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

The seaside rock she sits on shines a blaze
   of purple shell and matte-glazed films of moss.
She perches there, bent knees to chest, to gaze
   the gray and frosty feathered sea across.
There, balanced on the edge of both the sea
   and sixteen, she can take some stock and stare
               out far into the undefined grayscape,
                             hoping for there to be
   a sail, a seal’s head, some ascending flare,
               a sign of motion out beyond the cape.

But maybe what she sees is purely her
   own thoughts, pooled like the tide in rocky dips.
Perhaps the sea—the hard surf’s constant stir,
   the hulking tide that slowly, surely slips
over the shelf and toward the land—is just
   the background for the movements of her mind,
               a deeper sea beneath the sea we know,
                             and thus perhaps we must,
   her mother and I, stay ashore and find
               a way to let that deeper current go.

It’d be too simple now for us to say
   she’s setting sail. She is, herself, the crew,
the passengers, the ship that cuts the bay
   with prow and rudder. She is the deep blue
the prow divides, a depth all in herself.
   The cold sea wind lifts up her hair and blows
               it up and toward the clouds that mass out past
the continental shelf.
   We know it is the girl alone who knows
               her thoughts. We start to let her go at last.

But not just yet. Not yet: a few more years
   beside the shore to stare out far with us
just up the beach. A gray-tipped seagull veers
   into her private world to fret and fuss
above the rocky pools. Its grating screech
   cuts through the other gulls, the wind’s high whine,
as if to pull her from the ocean ledge.
She looks back up the beach
   to see us shadowed by a solemn pine
then turns her eyes out to the round earth’s edge.

Ben Myers

Image by Bruce0McFadden, licensed via Creative Commons. Image cropped.