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1621: Travelogue for Exiles | Karl Shapiro

"Travelogue for Exiles"
Karl Shapiro

Look and remember. Look upon this sky;
Look deep and deep into the sea-clean air,
The unconfined, the terminus of prayer.
Speak now and speak into the hallowed dome.
What do you hear? What does the sky reply?
The heavens are taken: this is not your home.

Look and remember. Look upon this sea;
Look down and down into the tireless tide.
What of a life below, a life inside,
A tomb, a cradle in the curly foam?
The waves arise; sea-wind and sea agree
The waters are taken: this is not your home.

Look and remember. Look upon this land,
Far, far across the factories and the grass.
Surely, there, surely they will let you pass.
Speak then and ask the forest and the loam.
What do you hear? What does the land command?
The earth is taken: this is not your home.

And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
mieystrapurore
May. 22nd, 2013 07:10 am (UTC)
This was beautiful, thanks so much for sharing it
versipellis
May. 22nd, 2013 04:09 pm (UTC)
I love the refrain at the end of each verse - very powerful.
animaltime
May. 27th, 2013 04:02 am (UTC)
The first stanza implies that humans aren't gods, because presumably gods are in heaven. But this logic doesn't hold up for the second or third stanzas, because people do inhabit the sea (or at least make a living from it, know it very well) and of course most of us make a living at least indirectly from the earth. So this reading doesn't "work."

On a second reading, and after noticing the title, I can see how off my first reading was because the speaker addresses the poem to exiles. Re-reading it with this in mind, I understand that for an exile home is nowhere, that that sense of homelessness expands and crowds out pretty much everything else. Even so, I wanted to know more about the speaker personally, not just the abstract feeling of not having a home.
kaberett
Jun. 2nd, 2013 12:49 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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