Every year I return to the little Oregon town of Rockaway Beach for a week to walk up and down on the beach and read Bible commentaries, putting my research into the margins of my Bible. Sandy beaches, cold wine, colder ice-cream and stacks of Bible commentaries to go through—there is no better time to be had this side of the Kingdom. As well as writing comments into my Bible margins, I try also to produce a poem. This year, the poem reflects on the sound of the pounding surf, wonderfully audible through the open windows of the beach house at which I stay. The poem follows; I hope you like it.
I went down to the beach and listened
while the ocean roared at me.
It got my attention, so I sat on the sand
like a student at a classroomdesk.
At length I learned its language,
strange and sad.
It had seen me and my type before,
a thousand times, ten thousand times
ten thousand, times
past counting or caring. We all
ran to the beach, and cried,
and sang, and worried, and died, running
into its sunlit surf.
It had seen it all—that was why it spoke with the voice
of deathless despair. It had seen the first Leviathan born,
with an infant’s defiance out of its egg. It had seen
the animals come, shuffling and blinking out of the forests.
It had seen
men arise, newcomers under the sky, tentative,
doomed. All of them, all, down
to the last, marching relentlessly, single file,
singing or silent, into
its cold, covering waves.
It had seen it all. The mute rocks
were its brothers, and the blind sky.
I listened to its pounding lessons and learned:
the noise was time’s loud lamentation,
its waters, the salty tears of God.