Quinn Latimer is a poet and critic based in Basel, whose first book, Rumored Animals, won the 2010 American Poetry Journal Book Prize, and will be published in 2011.
The vast sadness of my family
is an ocean rehearsing its sorrow
against the intractable night.
By light we are careful, bruised and
beautiful as script, hair tangled
from evening’s beating. We stoop
to inspect the night’s debris
and do not recognize black
half-hearts of shell (that are ours),
wool of kelp. The jetty’s battered
knuckles count the endless waves
rolling in. Watching birds drawn
as graphite on sky, we forget
our night deaths. I do not understand
this, nor our strange thick hair, only
that I am of it. Wheat of my mother,
father’s beard of bees: I am their
provided. O mineral violence
release their salt traffic, their
hovering at sea. I will exist.
Give them what they want.
This poem first appeared in Prairie Schooner. It's reprinted here with permission of the poet, Quinn Latimer.