Massive, the sea sweeps
and swerves, furious as a dragon.
Salt-hewn, foam-
roughed, it troubles the thirteen
swallows who cluster—
identical, overlapping—trying
to build one steady thing.
Mist wets their breasts
and makes flying heavy.  The sea
has no shore.  All middle,
dense as middle age.
Birds may be welcome, then,
as minor miracles, granting grace
to that universal struggle.

—inspired by “Swallows and Waves,” a painting by Okamoto Shuki, 1785–1832, Japan

Read and listen to five additional poems from this series, paired with their inspirational images, here.


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