Longitude 170° West, Latitude 35° North

A poem by Gary Snyder.

For Ruth Sasaki

This realm half sky half water,
        night black with white foam
        streaks of glowing fish
        the high half black too lit with
        dots of stars,
The thrum of the diesel engine twirling
        sixty-foot drive shafts of twin screws,
Shape of a boat, and floating
        over a mile of living seawater, underway,
        always westward, dropping
        land behind us to the east,
Brought only these brown Booby birds that trail
        a taste of landfall feathers in the craw
        hatchrock barrens—old migrations—
        flicking from off the stern into thoughts,
Sailing jellyfish by day, phosphorescent
        light at night,
        shift of current on the ocean floor
        food chains climbing to the whale.

Ship hanging on this membrane infinitely
        tiny in the “heights” the “deep”
        air-bound beings in the realm of wind
        or water, holding hand to wing or fin
Swimming westward to the farther shore,
        this is what I wanted? so much
        water in the world and so much crossing,
        oceans of truth and seas of doctrine
Salty real seas of our westering world,
        Dharma-spray of lonely slick on deck
Sleepy, between two lands, always a-
        floating world,
                I go below.

M.S. Arita Maru, 1956

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