A few weeks lago, one Wednesday during lab meeting, when everyone was feeling swallowed up by the scale of the number of microorganisms we were trying to archive from Puerto Rican coral reefs, a person on the project, Katherine (who is a scientist-poet), read us this wonderful poem that she had discovered that just summed up everything we were feeling: we were on a voyage, perhaps even a great ocean voyage, and we had nothing left to do but to continue uncovering our story .
I feel as if we opened a book about great ocean voyages
and found ourselves on a great ocean voyage:
sailing through December, around the horn of Christmas
and into the January Sea, and sailing on and on
all the characters who died in the middle chapters
make the sunsets near the book's end more beautiful.
and someone is hanging a lantern from the stern,
and someone else says, "I'm only sorry
that I forgot my blue parka; It's turning cold."
Sunrise like a dish of cantaloupe
Clouds like two armies clashing in the sky;
Icebergs and tropical storms,
That's the kind of thing that happens on our ocean voyage —
And in another, anger made us sick like swallowed glass
& I lay in my bunk and slept for so long,
Which all the time was going by, right there, outside my cabin window.
and the water made a sound like memory when we sailed.
under the constellation of the horse.
By discussing the meaning of homesickness.
But there was no home to go home to.
There was no getting around the ocean.
We had to go on finding out the story
by pushing into it —
The book was no longer a book.
That was the plot.
That was our marvelous punishment.