You will be tossed. Which way would you like it?

Katsushika Hokusai, The Great Wave Off Kanagawa from "Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji"; 1823-29, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Katsushika Hokusai, The Great Wave Off Kanagawa from “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji”; 1823-29, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Hmmm. . . big fan of the Japanese version, tense. Heroic. But my vote’s for Hambling’s fearsome sensuality. No explanation needed on this one friends – you are on your own.

Maggi Hambling, Rising wave, 2009 © Maggi Hambling

Maggi Hambling, Rising wave, 2009 © Maggi Hambling

I am the shifting shingle you approach with stealth

then in the dark moons of you curves I am tossed, lost, displaced with greedy lover’s tongues and lips

You suck me in and in again we rise together, we rise together, then float safe on liquid breasts until the dance begins again and you thrust deep and my resistance is low

dissolve, dissolve

no defence against your relentless advance

I am but a ghost of the shore disappeared in you

Hambling, 2008

Fisherman’s Cottage

Harald Sohlberg, Fisherman's Cottage, 1907, Art Institute of Chicago

Harald Sohlberg, Fisherman’s Cottage, 1907, Art Institute of Chicago

He sat solid, on a stump near the porch. Bare-hand paws tugging at fishing line. Restringing a pole, the net at his feet collapsed in a gnarled rope heap. A cable sweater, slightly yellow, stretched over his shoulders, wide hunched. His mother’s hands knitted the sweater for him last year, the same year he laid her to rest on the upper hill. On the ridge where the pines laced the sky through their fingers.

The rough planes of his face fell placid as he worked. The sweet-brine smell of the morning water pressed his lips. Now soundless, a wash of waves pulled and pushed at the gravel shore.

He caught women like he caught fish although he wouldn’t admit to such.  He put on his charm like he strung a night-crawler. They saw the power in his body, even now at sixty-two. His fourth wife left several months ago, and the calendar on a nail was just passing pictures. She wasn’t a sailor and he was too like this sea, same tides, both changeable and stubborn-constant. Whittling her away a little at a time. She tired of tacking back and forth through each bluster gust.

His fingers knotted the way his mind used to. But lately his thoughts lay blank as his fingers worked. He liked that, not thinking much. He feared getting stuck down at the dead-end of his reason. Alone.

He turned, the whisper ping of his cell phone surprising the silence. Only lately did he remember to plug it in when the battery died. Probably his daughter texting to wish him a ” Happy Father’s Day.”

“I don’t text,” he scolds the brightening sky. He couldn’t be bothered now. Not till this was finished at least.

Sweet Salt

Co Westerik, Zwemmer 1962 Museum Kunsthal, Rotterdam, Netherlands

Suspended between heaven and earth in the gestational thrall of the sea. The clouds float below  the water’s surface, the sky seems liquid like water. A lovely inversion here. Don’t you think?

It’s a head on shot, as the swimmer glides toward us, between two pieces of land in the distance. The surface of the water bisects the canvas with a delicate horizontal line. The broad field of blue sky and the swath of cloudwhite water add emphasis to this line.  But wait, there’s more. Connect with your finger the lone cloud, the mass of land on the right, finger-like seaweed at the bottom, and the mass of land on the left, finishing again with the blue cloud.  You have encircled the swimmer, a circumscription joining these four painted elements.

See references to the womb here — use your imagination (i.e. seaweed placenta). The swimmer at this angle, in a fetal position. However, the image speaks more than ” the ocean is our Mother.” Its the freedom created when your stroke settles into a hypnotic rhythm. You cease to exist like you did on land. This new-found buoyant body, ubiquitous wetness and the sweet salt taste in your mouth, the soft rock of the waves. Plucks you from time and delivers you for the briefest moment to the soul of eternity.

(At least that’s what the guy at the YMCA said)  And I thought, “Yeah, but once I was almost killed by that sea.”