Breaking wave in Mackerel Bay near the Clan Stuart

Friday poem: Move

This poem appears in the front matter of Carl Safina’s book Song for the Blue Ocean. It reflects a yearning -as humans faced with a bewildering array of choices – for the apparently sure destiny of living creatures such as turtles and salmon, both of which have homing instincts that take them back to where they were born. Something to reflect on as we approach the turning of another year.

I tell you this to help you in reading this poem, not to categorise her, but Alicia Ostriker is an American poet whose Judaism and feminist leanings inform her work.

Move – Alicia Ostriker

Whether it’s a turtle who drags herself
Slowly to the sandlot, where she digs
The sandy nest she was born to dig

And lay leathery eggs in, or whether it’s salmon
Rocketing upstream
Toward pools that call, Bring your eggs here

And nowhere else in the world, whether it is turtle-green
Ugliness and awkwardness, or the seething
Grace and gild of silky salmon, we

Are envious, our wishes speak out right here.
Thirsty for a destiny like theirs,
an absolute right choice

To end all choices. Is it memory,
We ask, is it a smell
They remember,

Or just what is it—some kind of blueprint
That makes them move, hot grain by grain,
Cold cascade above icy cascade,

Slipping through
Water’s fingers
A hundred miles

Inland from the easy, shiny sea?
And we also—in the company
Of our tribe

Or perhaps alone, like the turtle
On her wrinkled feet with the tapping nails—
We also are going to travel, we say let’s be

Oblivious to all, save
That we travel, and we say
When we reach the place we’ll know

We are in the right spot, somehow, like a breath
Entering a singer’s chest, that shapes itself
For the song that is to follow

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Clare

Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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