To See the Sea

Christi Belcourt, Canada

This post is about a place where I have experienced great pleasure, great awe, and deep sadness — the ocean. I have been fortunate enought to play and swim in the waters of two great oceans, the Atlantic and the Pacific.
I have also learned to overcome my fear of the water, to see with new eyes, the life that lives within the ocean, and to have a growing respect for the miracles of life and beauty that occur away from the prying eyes and subjugating agendas of humans.

It is terrifying to see what humans in their capitalist victories have done to our natural world, a world that has inspired so much amazing and powerful art, poetry, discovery, and music; a natural world that has given us all the tools for the reproduction and enjoyment of life. The sea has also played its role as witness to inhumanity as the slave trade shows us.

Slave Ship, c.1830, Johann Moritz Rugendas, Wikipedia

Pollution, contamination, logging, mining, oil exploration, urban growth without development, and manufacturing have all combined to leave their indelible destructive mark on the ocean, and water systems in particular.

Water defenders across the globe are taking on short-sighted and exploitative corporate and government interests in defense of one of the planet’s most precious resource. I want to celebrate and honour the sea, to acknowledge it’s bitter salt, to share the love I feel for this living, breathing environment whose anguish we witness daily and which has witnessed our anguish in return…

I Have, (Excerpt), Nicolas Guillen

…I have that having the land I have the sea,
no country clubs,
no high life,
no tennis and no yachts,
but, from beach to beach and wave on wave,
gigantic blue open democratic:
in short, the sea…

In short, the sea, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji

In the Sea Caves, George Seferis, Trans. Edmund Keeley

In the sea caves
there’s a thirst there’s a love
there’s an ecstasy
all hard like shells
you can hold them in your palm.

In the sea caves
for whole days I gazed into your eyes
and I didn’t know you nor did you know me.

Inside the Sea Caves, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji

Denial, George Seferis, Trans. Edmund Keeley

On the secret seashore
white like a pigeon
we thirsted at noon;
but the water was brackish.

On the golden sand
we wrote her name;
but the sea-breeze blew
and the writing vanished.

With what spirit, what heart,
what desire and passion
we lived our life: a mistake!
So we changed our life…

Fishing, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji

Sail Away, Rabindranath Tagore

Early in the day it was whispered that we should sail in a boat,
only thou and I,
and never a soul in the world would know
of this our pilgrimage to no country and to no end.
In that shoreless ocean,
at thy silently listening smile my songs would swell in melodies,
free as waves, free from all bondage of words.
Is the time not come yet?
Are there works still to do?

Lo, the evening has come down upon the shore
and in the fading light the seabirds come flying to their nests.
Who knows when the chains will be off,
and the boat, like the last glimmer of sunset,
vanish into the night?

Into the Vastness, Copyright 2018, Kaushalya Bannerji


Where are your monuments, your battles, martyrs?
Where is your tribal memory? Sirs,
in that gray vault. The sea. The sea
has locked them up. The sea is History.
First, there was the heaving oil,
heavy as chaos;
then, like a light at the end of a tunnel,
the lantern of a caravel,
and that was Genesis.
Then there were the packed cries,
the shit, the moaning:
Bone soldered by coral to bone,
mantled by the benediction of the shark’s shadow,
that was the Ark of the Covenant.
Then came from the plucked wires
of sunlight on the sea floor
the plangent harp of the Babylonian bondage,
as the white cowries clustered like manacles
on the drowned women,
and those were the ivory bracelets
of the Song of Solomon,
but the ocean kept turning blank pages
looking for History.
Then came the men with eyes heavy as anchors
who sank without tombs,
brigands who barbecued cattle,
leaving their charred ribs like palm leaves on the shore,
then the foaming, rabid maw
of the tidal wave swallowing Port Royal,
and that was Jonah,
but where is your Renaissance?
Sir, it is locked in them sea sands
out there past the reef’s moiling shelf,
where the men-o’-war floated down;
strop on these goggles, I’ll guide you there myself.
It’s all subtle and submarine,
through colonnades of coral,
past the gothic windows of sea fans
to where the crusty grouper, onyx-eyed,
blinks, weighted by its jewels, like a bald queen;
and these groined caves with barnacles
pitted like stone
are our cathedrals,
and the furnace before the hurricanes:
Gomorrah. Bones ground by windmills
into marl and cornmeal,
and that was Lamentations –
that was just Lamentations,
it was not History;
then came, like scum on the river’s drying lip,
the brown reeds of villages
mantling and congealing into towns,
and at evening, the midges’ choirs,
and above them, the spires
lancing the side of God
as His son set, and that was the New Testament.
Then came the white sisters clapping
to the waves’ progress,
and that was Emancipation –
jubilation, O jubilation –
vanishing swiftly
as the sea’s lace dries in the sun,
but that was not History,
that was only faith,
and then each rock broke into its own nation;
then came the synod of flies,
then came the secretarial heron,
then came the bullfrog bellowing for a vote,
fireflies with bright ideas
and bats like jetting ambassadors
and the mantis, like khaki police,
and the furred caterpillars of judges
examining each case closely,
and then in the dark ears of ferns
and in the salt chuckle of rocks
with their sea pools, there was the sound
like a rumour without any echo
of History, really beginning.

Visiting, Copyright 2018, Kaushalya Bannerji

Alfonsina y el Mar, Felix Luna/Ariel Ramirez

Alfonsina and the sea
Across the soft sand that the waves lick
Her small footprints are not coming back anymore
Only one path made of sorrow and silence
Reached the deep water
Only one path made of untold sorrows
Reached the foam

Only God knows about the anguish that accompanied you
And about the old pains your voice never told
That caused you to go to sleep, lulled by the song
Of the seashells
The song sung in the depths of the dark sea by
The seashell

You’re going away, Alfonsina
Along with your loneliness
What kind of new poems did you go looking for?
An ancient voice made of wind and salt
Is shattering your soul and taking you away
And you go there, like in a dream
Asleep, Alfonsina, dressed with the sea

Five little mermaids will escort you
Through paths made of seaweed and corals
And phosphorescent sea horses will sing
A round, by your side
And the aquatic dwellers
Will soon play by your side

Dim the light of the lamp a bit for me
Let me sleep in peace, nurse [1]
And if he calls don’t tell him I’m here
Tell him that Alfonsina is not coming back
And if he calls never tell him I’m here
Tell him that I have left

You’re going away, Alfonsina
Along with your loneliness
What kind of new poems did you go looking for?
An ancient voice made of wind and salt
Is shattering your soul and taking you away
And you go there, like in a dream
Asleep, Alfonsina, dressed with the sea

La Sirena 2, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
Under the Waves, Copyright 2018, Kaushalya Bannerji
Dolphin Time, Copyright 2020, Kaushalya Bannerji,

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