Today's poem is by Raymond McDaniel


But it was really a lot of time in either a library or

an ocean—

sometimes I would walk out of the library and into the ocean,

they were that close.

What they had in common: more books than people,

more waves than people,

neither empty but populated thickly by things that weren't people.

In a library I learned the origin of the verb to decimate:

to remove one-tenth of any given number,

usually a group of soldiers who were to be punished

for a group offense.

In the ocean a tenth of the ocean is nothing to the ocean

though it is also the size of an ocean.

A tenth taken away doesn't seem so many. A tenth

remaining seems like a punishment, only a tenth

to remember whatever sin consigned the others

to oblivion. A tenth, a remnant. People were so rare

in the library, and if you walked far enough down

the shore, so rare on the beach, so few

relative to the ocean, infinitely divisible.

All the world felt like a remnant of a previous world.

Knowing that I was the youngest meant knowing

I would be the remnant of a previous world.

Now there are too many. Though that is a problem

with no just solution, it is also,

like a wave flattened under the weight of a wave,

a problem that will solve itself.

Copyright © 2017 Raymond McDaniel All rights reserved
from Bennington Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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