I asked them to look at the sea, as long as they wanted

by Xiao Yue Shan

after Sophie Calle’s ‘Voir La Mer’

to know the sea is to know obliteration—
foreground and background coherent in a vista
of absolutes. it is the latticed distance between
a human body and infinity, forbidden texture
of low desire, the sole existent way of approaching
the earth from behind. it’s here, stranger.
before you. your life will divide at this moment, once towards
breath, and once towards light. in the everywhere-shape,
devotion is immeasurable, silent in the way of proteus, who
shapeshifted so as to not answer questions.
the thoughts you have at the sea-edge will sweep slow into
every mind that has stood at this threshold,
voyage of sight full of attempts at naming blue.
tantrum sky. brocade sand. terrific blaze of salt
riding ships now brief in oblivion. some learn violence
here, and others peace. the water that lends
its depth to a thousand songs for love, and a million
dreams for immortality, culminates in your singular gaze,
its miraculous looking. at the shore eternities
change hands—when you turn to me your eyes will be unreadable
because the bright will have pressed itself deep into them,
and I will want to ask you a wonderful number of things,
of grace and the inviolable and the strange notion
that the word beyond conjugates. but you will have learned
from the water, what it is to keep from responding,
allowing the language to hover there awhile
in an ongoing suspension of wondering.