The Brine-Breather
poems by John Haag



The sea--the Sea. She
is that be-all we all want
and won't wait for.

Oh, light's not
the only illumination
nor air the answer.

Blood breathed sea water
before your brain slithered
ashore, before the sky
filled with an awe
you could not fly in.

Why, 40 fathoms down,
your lungs tanked to your back,
does pressure drive
nitrogen and the nail of god
through your skull
till mad with ecstasy
and yearning
you give your mouthpiece to a fish.


Did you know, even, how to long for
as much as you've been given?


Where pressure alters all dimension
and the coals of the sea burn
with absolute music,
you, flame and moment,
in the instant of adoration
whole--the spaceless sea's sole nova
holding all in the palm of knowing--
offer this ultimate sacrament
to your least brother, who
in his greatest
cannot know
your need.

But how do you swim in god's body?


An eye looking into itself
containing all
the eye
looking into itself--
all merging into opposites: the shape
a part of the shape of changing shapes
as flame takes no shape but its own motion.

Nothing not in flames can be alive.


New now
least seed
eat and flame seed that eats seed
of the sun at the point
of vanishing hung now
dawn crystal poised
upon the cut edge
of light the cliff-wall
of your last and ancient
heartbeat your back
to the black blood-pit
the dark before time
started sheered
from the seafree flame
And you
hung there.

Time will bring nothing closer.


...only the beginning of terror
the weltering up. Rosebud in the fire. Father
a fist of flames flares in the unexpected dark
his mouth writhing with worms. Your skull
tightens, tunnels, a tube to squeeze through toward
the whining light the sickening waters the waste
of an alien people whose third eye finds you.
The guard says No you cannot pass, pursues you
among the bone houses the lost turnings.
She waits by the river asking Where is your brother?
and you want to lie down with her for her hair
is dark water and her touch could heal you
but your flesh flakes from you she will not return
though you fly forever over these waters.
In silent accusation the fish stare back at you.
Graze in pastures of stone.

The dead man in your suitcase wants to go home.


In the tight keep of a seed burn blossom root worm and bird
dirt sky sun and mother sea, the darkness part of your own
burning the first nudge of terror, whose terrible messengers
lead you deeper, pit and sea the same where she flames
at the center and fire casts out fear and you sea-flesh
and daybreak love the fire and all its fish.
Father's at rest all gates fly open like tongues
of welcome the eyes and rivers know you
and that is well what burns
is never lost.

The scripture of flesh is fire.


In the once unbearable caress
a small thing a seed sings with the whole sea's
burning that blows through every cell and you
are rising, rising you will always be
rising your eyes teeming with angel-fish among
the moon-jellies' iridescence the phosphorescent
promise of stars by day night air and sea
and hear the gull salt sweet where each
runnel or pebble shell-scrap stick
rock ruck or jumble meets
the sea a new way tuning
under the earthshaking surf-beat
(never changing yet new
as another woman
the sea's song.
On the cliff-face
the whisper of spray smooths
the rocks thunder broke.


Return to Who is Tom Cool?

Copyright 1971 by John Haag.