Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Jeff Encke reads his poem from day 49

The Water in Which One Drowns Is Always an Ocean

           “If we are to win this struggle and spread those freedoms, we must
           keep our own moral compass pointed in a true direction.”
              –Barack Obama

It is the calm and silence that drown us.

Some people can disturb words
with a mere movement of the teeth.

The pouch of the mouth strewn with roses
                                   roofed with lost causes.

Pumpkins and habits have a smell
and breath is its beginning.

The womb carries on its shoulders
a beggar wrapped in earth.

                                            Absence washes
away love, taking the tint of all colors.

                              From the well of envy
the child teaches us to weep.

                Every sickness has its herb.

Heaven is dark, yet quiet and limpid.
Shovels of earth cannot quench a mountain.

Scum rises to the top of the heart.

                                        A bubble on the ocean
a taste the teetotaler will never know.

Do not pour on the strength of a mirage.
Do not torture thirst with shallow water.

A merchant in the rain saves only himself.
A shadow that always follows the body.

When your cheeks beg for fever
                         you are halfway there.

Habit is the shirt we wear for a midday nap.
Gray hairs its blossoms.

Hope a pearl worthless in its shell.

Death answers: I have a lot to say
                             but my mouth is full.

Those destined to drown
                 will drown in a spoonful.

The tears of strangers are only water.

Jeff Encke has poems forthcoming this spring from American Poetry Review and Kenyon Review Online. In 2004, he published Most Wanted: A Gamble in Verse (Last Tangos), a deck of playing cards featuring excerpts of love poems written to Saddam Hussein and other war criminals. He currently teaches literature at Richard Hugo House in Seattle.

Originally posted March 9, 2009

Click here for an MP3 of this poem.


  1. Hey Jeff!!! was it 15 years ago that i March'd in front of your doorsteps?

  2. Greetings! Precise, vibrant, and memorable -- as always - Vivek

  3. I love this. Sad, but hopeful and strikingly beautiful. Thank you for posting.

  4. Jeff, thanks for a thought-provoking and elegant contribution. Cheers, Andrew

  5. When your cheeks beg for fever
    you are halfway there.

    I love it. Thanks for sending me the link to this! I knew about the project but for some reason, I never made my way to the actual blog. I really enjoyed your poem, and many of the others here. I'm working my way through them slowly.

  6. Hi Jeff! Although Seth claims he is not "well versed in poetry," he knows enough to be moved by brilliant images and is deeply impressed by your ability to weave together bold universal pronouncements with intimately rendered minutiae.

    I'm just scared to go to the beach tomorrow morning...(although a spoonful would have done it, water riddles the wounds.)


  7. Anna...So long as nobody holds a towel over your face and pours water onto your mouth, you should be fine. Wendy tells me you're entertaining this week...Good luck with that! ;)

  8. I particularly liked the last three lines. I have a wonderful mental image now of Death being too polite to speak with his mouth full.


  9. "Scum rises to the top of the heart."
    "Do not torture thirst with shallow water."

    Jeff, this is beautiful. I have been inspired this morning.


  10. 'Hope a pearl worthless in its shell.'

    But worth much when culled, cherished, valued and given...? Beautiful imageries of desolation.

  11. Yes, I suppose I meant that hope's an ambiguous variable whose meaning and value depend on the person. In any case, hope's worthless in the absence of action (i.e., left in its shell).

  12. Perhaps, if we championed the writing of all instructional and technical documentation to be written in such evocative style, more people would know how to use computer applications. Of course, such words don't necessarily teach everyone how to live, either -- just the ones who can understand. ::smile::

  13. Wow. That was beautiful. It kind of gave me vertigo.

  14. The encke name brought your discovery
    The meteor aimed to the sunset yesterday moved I
    Today a calling to know all about encke

  15. Absence washes
    away love, taking the tint of all colors.

    I really liked this line the most. They usually say "absence makes the heart grow fonder" However, I think you're observation that absence can cause the heart to grow more distant is very poignant.

  16. Wow, that is a nice poem.

    "From the well of envy
    the child teaches us to weep."

    This line really resonates with me.
    As adults, we often forget to appreciate the beautiful things in life.

    But often, just by observing children, we will start to realize the things we have failed to appreciate.

  17. A moving, if not somewhat unsettling. I'm enjoying read 100 days of poems.

  18. "The Water in Which One Drowns Is Always an Ocean"

    The title is an Eye Catcher the first time you glace your eyes on it, you will never resist reader the entire poem. The poem has a lot of meaning on it. It is like traveling from issues to issues. Thanks Jeff for this amazing poem.

    Angela Taylor of Cellulean Reviews

  19. I'm not sure what this means. Maybe you can drown in a teacup but it will seem like an ocean?

  20. Thought provoking poem, Jeff. I enjoyed your reading of it, too.

  21. "Habit is the shirt we wear for a midday nap."
    I love that line. Not sure what you meant by it but it makes me think of how many people fall into that comfort zone and are afraid to break out and try new things.

  22. I read the poem the first time and loved it. But it was even better when listening to it. Great that people like yourself are willing to put your poems out there for us to appreciate.

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  24. What an excellent piece of writing. great poem, thanks for sharing with us.

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  25. I must say this poem shocked me. I love when people knows how to express its ideas, thoughts, feelings and problems in this way, and not trying to insult somebody.

  26. Great poem, thanks for sharing it. Always nice to read something that is put together so nicely.

    Jenn @ Recent chick flicks