"At Villeneuve-les-Maguelone" by Rosanna Warren
On this strung-out strand where once the Saracens raided
and the bishop defended, now only surf whirs in--
tumble, soothe, and seethe of waves at a slow boil.
We lie motionless and cracked as driftwood.
Middle age has tossed us here. Salt sears each wave,
sand crusts your eyebrows and the rim of each ear
and the sun licks hunchbacked breakers with a tongue of fire.
Hypnosis of foam: the surf sounds endless.
Nothing is endless. The cathedral of Maguelone
hulks, a battered shell on a wind-roughed island.
Sea gulls perch on the rafters in the shadow of cypress.
And if we two, sprawled below on the sand, are burned
and offered, it is to no god we will name
and the sea that lulls us is spelling its own end.
Yet we are given. For now, day is suspended,
a kiss is a salt mirage in smitten air,
the brush of your hand on my hip a tremor of sunburn.
I could see you, but instead I turn my head,
glance up, and the whole sky hurtles down--and where
we were, we aren't: just a long horizontal seizure
of aquamarine. Tide spittle. The shuddering shore.
Rosanna Warren is a distinguished poet and critic. Her most recent book of poems is So Forth (2020). She is the recipient of many awards and was a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1999 to 2005.
"At Villeneuve-lès-Maguelone" from SO FORTH: by Rosanna Warren. Copyright © 2020 by Rosanna Warren. Used with permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.