Not everyone is as lucky as I to live with a direct line of sight to the sea. In the place where I live, you are never far from the sound of the waves, the wind, seabirds, the deep diesel chug of the fishing boats. I walk the shoreline and venture forth in boats.
The sea is a mistress of many moods. Sometimes the water is bright blue, or even bright jade green where glacier-fed rivers meet the sea, or grey with white-dashing tumblers. There are a thousands treasures in her depths and tossed onto the shore.
One time, my partner and I were taking the boat out the entrance of Prince William Sound and we got caught in some fierce weather. We brought the boat back into a small sheltered bay to let her go dry so we could examine her planks for damage. As the water retreated, I was amazed to see hundreds of moon jellies all around the boat, silent and pulsing, drifting out with the water. It was a sight so eerie, I’ve never forgotten it. One filled with wonder for these delicate shimmering creatures.
Jill McCabe Johnson must feel that wonder as well, for in her collection of poems The Diary of the One Swelling Sea, she hears the voice of the ocean in all its different moods and guises. The poems in the collection are brief for the most part, most under ten lines, but their cumulative effect is like the waves, building deeper and deeper. The sinuous lines on the page and the development of a lexicon all the sea’s own create a world that shifts and churns.
I will include one poem as small taste of the treasures within this book and suggest that you purchase this book immediately from Powell’s in Portland, Oregon. It is a book filled with wonder.
Its watersides gleam white
to hide under clouds
as the loonfish flaps
feather-fins to the air.
But its skysides flicker light
of petal-lined plumage
whenever loon plungs
for leach and snail.
written by Jill McCabe Johnson from Diary of the One Swelling Sea.