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“The way / he searches out her face, he searches out himself”. A poem by the 2019 Pulitzer Prize ...
2019-05-20 00:00:00

Immigrant Sea

"Northeaster", Winslow Homer (1895)
Immigrant Sea
Immigrant Sea

Aroused by her inaccessibility, he aches for more
of her life to live inside him. Watching
 

the breakers, standing so close he can feel
heat coming off her wet scalp. What is
 

his relation to this person
before him, so familiar and foreign? The way
 

he searches out her face, he searches out himself. Gusts
thrash crests of swell, spring grasses twirl
 

circles in the sand where they stand without speaking. She
wants him to know it’s all charged, even grass
 

positive, pollen negative, so when grass waves,
it sweeps the air for pollen. He feels electricity all around
 

as though the wild drama of the coming storm were already
aware of them, foreigners on this shore. Little
 

sapphire-blue flowers speckle the dunes.
He wonders if he has let himself flatten out
 

into a depthless sheet, like escalator stairs, whether in the end
he’ll disappear underground without the smallest lurch
 

of resistance. But when her lavish face turns toward him
beaming, the corners of her eyes wind-wet,
 

he yields to that excess, he reappears to himself.
 

 

Read an introduction to this poem.

Published:

Forrest Gander

was born in California’s Mojave Desert, grew up in Virginia, and attended the College of William & Mary, where he majored in geology. After earning an MA in literature from San Francisco State University, Gander moved to Mexico, then to Arkansas, where his poetry – informed by his knowledge of geology – turned its attention to the landscape as foreground or source of action. Gander’s books of poetry include “Be With” (2018), which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, “Eye Against Eye” (2005), “Torn Awake” (2001) and “Science & Steepleflower” (1998). Though primarily a poet, Gander is also a translator, novelist, essayist, and the editor of poetry anthologies. He has translated collections by the Mexican poets Pura López Colomé and Coral Bracho. With Kent Johnson he translated Bolivian poet Jaime Saenz’s “Immanent Visitor: Selected Poems of Jamie Saenz" (2002) and "The Night” (2007), for which he won a PEN Translation Award. His translations of Neruda are collected in “Then Come Back: The Lost Neruda Poems” (2016) and included in “The Essential Neruda: Selected Poems” (2004). He also edited the bilingual anthology “Mouth to Mouth: Poems by Twelve Contemporary Mexican Women” (1993). Gander’s own poetry has been translated into several languages. He has published two novels, “As a Friend” (2008) and “The Trace” (2014).