A man studies the foreign nature of his body,
the scuttle and rush of salt and potassium raising his blood
to determine the stuttering tattoo of his heart, the hunger
and satiety of mind phasing in and out of fog and sunlight,
the synesthesia that denies logic any single absolute,
the synapse that allows the rhythm to continue.
For years he studies the violence, the quiet motion
in the pause and space of silence between each breath,
and in his spine, a notion of a place where he can linger,
rest and reside, while he tries to learn the language
of his immigrant flesh. And the weather, the ocean
wind caressing him, a second skin, or a blow, a fist
Threatening everything as he studies moods that swing
from East to West, leaving bent compass needles
of salt-burned grass withered and brittle on the shore.
As he grows older his studies turn more to what little
he no longer knows about his body - its youth, its origins
in genesis, and its pleasure in all sensation, even pain,
And in memory writes it down again and again, defending
the science of alchemy that only begins here, where body ends.
~Lee H. McCormack
Lee H. McCormack, Martha's Vineyard Poet Laureate: a year-round resident for over 40-years, has undertaken intensive poetry studies with: Galway Kinnell; Sharon Olds; Charles Simic; Robert Pinsky; Thomas Lux; Peter Klappert; Steve Orlen, and George Mills. And, short-term critical studies with: Michael Ryan and AI. Lee was also a Single Summer Resident at Warren Wilson MFA Program. He is a member of the island's Cleaveland House Poets, and has recited poetry at Martha's Vineyard Poetry Society's live television broadcast, “A Gathering of Island Poets”; at Featherstone Center for the Arts; Vineyard Haven Public Library; West Tisbury Public Library, and other venues. At JawsFest 2012, Lee read his “At the Apex” poem - a poem about saving sharks and our oceans, before an audience of over two-thousand.
About this column: This Sunday Afternoon Poem is provided by the Martha's Vineyard Poetry Society (MVPS). With almost 200 members, MVPS is the island's largest poetry society. MVPS is responsible for nominating and selecting our island's Martha's Vineyard Poet Laureate.