Poet's Choice

By Robert Pinsky
Sunday, August 13, 2006

At this time of year, many people go to the shore: because it is cool, because there are good things to do and eat there, and because there is something fascinating about the ocean and the things that live in it or near it. Peter Balakian made a poem, "Thoreau at Nauset" (dedicated to Hyatt and Louise Waggoner), by adapting and rearranging some of Henry David Thoreau's words from Thoreau's book Cape Cod . The poem represents Thoreau's peculiar character, and through that personality the scene also suggests a particular state of mind, perhaps universal, where the mind is somehow both concentrated and relaxed:

I watched the kelp in particular,

spread on the sand

like some homespun.

Earweed, tangle, devil's-

apron, sole-leather, ribbon weed;

it's a con artist.

Umbilical in the bubbles.

Unsnarled by the tide.

When it catches the sun,

it's a budding anemone.

I took the first chance

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