12/11/2013 08:07 am ET Updated Feb 10, 2014


Kevin McGrath was born in southern China in 1951 and was educated in England and Scotland; he has lived and worked in France, Greece, and India. Presently he is an associate of the Department of South Asian Studies and poet in residence at Lowell House, Harvard University. Publications include, Fame (1995), Lioness (1998), Maleas (2002), The Sanskrit Hero (2004), Flyer (2005), Comedia (2008), Stri (2009), Jaya (2011), Supernature (2012), Heroic Krsna and Eroica (2013), and Raja Yudhisthira (forthcoming 2014). McGrath lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with his family.


DAYS when we sailed for pleasure
Past heron and cormorant rocks,
Deer were swimming out to the isles
As we flew beside them watching.

We had felled our own firm mast
Set it deep and green upon the keel,
Our fires we had brought with us
Conserved upon smooth stones.

Days of harvest and sunlight
Of quiet anastatic waves,
Like the milk of paradise it seemed
A universe caught in one picture.

Our spontaneous voyage set out
At dawn across the bay where
Yellow pollen covered over
The sea with a soft powder.

Days of watery happiness
With the sound of a fragrant wake,
Or shores scented with young pine
Where we slept not fearing escape.

Sailing past remote sea graves
Ancestral marine tombs we knew,
Always wet from spray they were
From waves who loved those sailors.

Days when hours were not wrong
When music was ours to sing,
When we kept our own imperative
And courage was indelible.

The eager spinnaker visible
To all who were navigating,
As if followed by beauty we were
Like a lover and her beloved.

In regions where it never rains
Fully hidden in the light,
Being brighter than the day
Than mundane suffering:

There are guardian helmsmen
Compassionate and pitiful,
Who oversee and direct us
Invisible like sweeping clouds.

Faithful only to shadows they
Are motionless as our boat skimmed
The patient medium of the sea,
An impartial indifferent void.

Midsummer day when the fertile sun
Poised in our breathing heart,
Unlocked its truth as we were still
And took us for its own vessel.

Having sipped the water of genius
To be human is to endure,
To receive the unfamiliar
And find pleasure there.

We curved like light and shot away
Unconditionally released,
Living for more than joy or time
Free of this world's diminishing
With the archery of a new life.