William Carlos Williams – The Yachts

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Contend in a sea which the land partly encloses
Shielding them from the too-heavy blows
Of an ungoverned ocean which when it chooses

Tortures the biggest hulls, the best man knows
To pit against its beatings, and sinks them pitilessly

Mothlike in mists, scintillant in the minute

Brilliance of cloudless days,
with broad bellying sails
They glide to the wind tossing green water
From their sharp prows while over them the crew crawls

Ant-like, solicitously grooming them,
releasing
Making fast as they turn, lean far over and having
Caught the wind again, side by side, head for the mark

In a well guarded arena of open water surrounded by
Lesser and greater craft which, sycophant, lumbering
And flittering follow them
, they appear youthful, rare

As the light of a happy eye, live with the grace

Of all that in the mind is fleckless, free and
Naturally to be desired.
Now the sea which holds them

Is moody, lapping their glossy sides, as if feeling
For some slightest flaw but fails completely

Today no race. Then the wind comes again. The yachts

Move, jockeying for a start, the signal is set and they
Are off.
Now the waves strike at them but they are too
Well made, they slip through, though they take in canvas

Arms with hands grasping seek to clutch at the prows
Bodies thrown recklessly in the way are cut aside
It is a sea of faces about them in agony, in despair

Until the horror of the race dawns staggering the mind;
The whole sea become an entanglement of watery bodies
Lost to the world bearing what they cannot hold.
Broken

Beaten, desolate, reaching from the dead to be taken up
They cry out, failing, failing! their cries rising
In waves still as the skillful yachts pass over

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