Gloucester Harbor by Edward Hopper via Wikimedia Commons


People that build their houses inland,
People that buy a plot of ground
Shaped like a house, and build a house there,
Far from the sea-board, far from the sound

Of water sucking the hollow ledges,
Tons of water striking the shore —
What do they long for, as I long for
One salt smell of the sea once more?

People the waves have not awakened,
Spanking the boats at the harbor’s head,
What do they long for, as I long for, —
Starting up in my inland bed,

Beating the narrow walls, and finding
Neither a window nor a door,
Screaming to God for death by drowning —
One salt taste of the sea once more?

-Edna St. Vincent Millay

I’ve been haunted by this poem, especially the desperation of that final stanza. The claustrophobia of “finding / neither a window nor a door.” The absolute devastation of “screaming to God for death by drowning”. It’s so extreme, so profound.


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