Poets | Bookstore | Poem of the Day | Top 40 | Search | Comments | Privacy
December 28th, 2014 - we have 234 poets, 8,025 poems and 282,504 comments.
Mark Doty - Visitation

When I heard he had entered the harbor,
and circled the wharf for days,
I expected the worst: shallow water,

confusion, some accident to bring
the young humpback to grief. 
Don't they depend on a compass

lodged in the salt-flooded folds
of the brain, some delicate
musical mechanism to navigate

their true course?  How many ways, 
in our century's late iron hours,
might we have led him to disaster?

That, in those days, was how
I'd come to see the world:
dark upon dark, any sense

of spirit an embattled flame
sparked against wind-driven rain
till pain snuffed it out.  I thought,

 This is what experience gives us ,
and I moved carefully through my life
while I waited. . .  Enough,

it wasn't that way at all.  The whale
—exuberant, proud maybe, playful,
like the early music of Beethoven—

cruised the footings for smelts
clustered near the pylons
in mercury flocks.  He

(do I have the gender right?)
would negotiate the rusty hulls
of the Portuguese fishing boats

—Holy Infant, Little Marie—
with what could only be read
as pleasure, coming close

then diving, trailing on the surface
big spreading circles
until he'd breach, thrilling us

with the release of pressured breath,
and the bulk of his sleek young head
—a wet black leather sofa

already barnacled with ghostly lice—
and his elegant and unlikely mouth,
and the marvelous afterthought of the flukes,

and the way his broad flippers
resembled a pair of clownish gloves
or puppet hands, looming greenish white

beneath the bay's clouded sheen. 
When he had consumed his pleasure
of the shimmering swarm, his pleasure, perhaps,

in his own admired performance,
he swam out the harbor mouth,
into the Atlantic.  And though grief

has seemed to me itself a dim,
salt suspension in which I've moved,
blind thing, day by day,

through the wreckage, barely aware
of what I stumbled toward, even I
couldn't help but look

at the way this immense figure
graces the dark medium,
and shines so: heaviness

which is no burden to itself. 
What did you think, that joy
was some slight thing?

Share |

Added: May 7 2003 | Viewed: 26 times | Comments and analysis of Visitation by Mark Doty Comments (2)

Visitation - Comments and Information

Poet: Mark Doty
Poem: Visitation
Volume: Sweet Machine
Year: Published/Written in 1998
Poem of the Day: Apr 3 2008

Comment 2 of 2, added on August 4th, 2014 at 5:52 PM.
ieFElzZunHxrgBsIlzx

Haq8D3 Great, thanks for sharing this blog post.Much thanks again. Keep writing.

crorkz from Saudi Arabia
Comment 1 of 2, added on August 3rd, 2014 at 4:14 PM.
PwCSgJGqfGsRH

aIs9Nh Thanks again for the post. Much obliged.

crorkz from Netherlands-Antilles

Are you looking for more information on this poem? Perhaps you are trying to analyze it? The poem, Visitation, has received 2 comments. Click here to read them, and perhaps post a comment of your own.

Poem Info

Doty Info
Copyright © 2000-2012 Gunnar Bengtsson. All Rights Reserved. Links | Bookstore