The fact that it is November gives me an occasion to remind you of, or introduce you to, a strange and beautiful poem by Wallace Stevens. It is, as his poems sometimes are, tricky. I suppose it's about the imagination and the world. It will also serve as a surrogate for a Caribbean cruise. You'll find the full text in The Collected Poems (Knopf).

Sea Surface Full of Clouds

I

In that November off Tehuantepec,

The slopping of the sea grew still one night

And in the morning hued the deck

And made one think of rosy chocolate

And gilt umbrellas. Paradisal green

Gave suavity to the perplexed machine

Of ocean, which like limpid water lay.

Who, then, in that ambrosial latitude

Out of the light evolved the moving blooms,

Who, then, evolved the sea-blooms from the clouds

Diffusing balms in that Pacific calm?

C'etait mon enfant, mon bijou, mon ame.

The sea clouds whitened far below the calm

And moved, as blooms move, in the

swimming green

And in its watery radiance, while the hue

Of heaven in an antique reflection rolled

Round the flotillas. And sometimes the sea

Poured brilliant iris on the glistening blue.

II

In that November off Tehuantepec,

The slopping of the sea grew still one night.

At breakfast jelly yellow streaked the deck

And made one think of chop-house chocolate

And sham umbrella. And a sham-like green

Capped summer-seeming on the tense machine

Of ocean, which in sinister flatness lay.

Who, then, beheld the rising of the clouds

That strode submerged in that malevolent sheen,

Who saw the mortal massiveness of the blooms

Of water moving on the water-floor?

C'etait mon frere du ciel, mon vie, mon or.

The gongs rang loudly as the windy booms

Hoo-hooed it in the darkened ocean blooms.

The gongs grew still. And then blue heaven spread

Its crystalline pendentives on the sea

And the macabre of water-glooms

In an enormous undulation fled.

III

In that November off Tehuantepec,

The slopping of the sea grew still one night

And a pale silver patterned on the deck

And made one think of porcelain chocolate

And pied umbrellas. An uncertain green,

Piano-polished, held the tranced machine

Of ocean, as a prelude holds and holds.

Who, seeing the silver petals of white blooms

Unfolding in the water, feeling sure

Of the milk of the slatiest splurge, heard, then,

The sea unfolding in the sunken clouds?

Oh! C'etait mon extase et mon amour.

So deeply shrunken were they that the shrouds,

The shrouding shadows, made the petals black

Until the rolling heaven made them blue,

A blue beyond the rainy hyacinth,

And smiting the crevasses of the leaves

Deluged the ocean with a sapphire blue.

Actually, there are two more stanzas. If you have read this far, you will not be surprised that the fourth one begins like this:

In that November off Tehuantepec

The night-long slopping of the sea grew still.

A mallow morning dozed upon the deck

And made one think of musky chocolate

And frail umbrellas.

And the fifth like this:

In that November off Tehuantepec

Night stilled the slopping of the sea. The day

Came, bowing and voluble, upon the deck,

Good clown . . . One thought of Chinese chocolate

And large umbrellas.

The idea might be to read the whole poem and then go outside and see how many worlds there are.

"Sea Surface Full of Clouds" from "The Collected Poems," by Wallace Stevens. Reprinted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf.