Full Fathom Five

by Sylvia Plath

Old man, you surface seldom. Then you come in with the tide's coming When seas wash cold, foam- Capped: white hair, white beard, far-flung, A dragnet, rising, falling, as waves Crest and trough. Miles long Extend the radial sheaves Of your spread hair, in which wrin- kling skeins Knotted, caught, survives The old myth of orgins Unimaginable. You float near As kneeled ice-mountains Of the north, to be steered clear Of, not fathomed. All obscurity Starts with a danger: Your dangers are many. I Cannot look much but your form suffers Some strange injury And seems to die: so vapors Ravel to clearness on the dawn sea. The muddy rumors Of your burial move me To half-believe: your reappearance Proves rumors shallow, For the archaic trenched lines Of your grained face shed time in runnels: Ages beat like rains On the unbeaten channels Of the ocean. Such sage humor and Durance are whirlpools To make away with the ground- Work of the earth and the sky's ridgepole. Waist down, you may wind One labyrinthine tangle To root deep among knuckles, shin- bones, Skulls. Inscrutable, Below shoulders not once Seen by any man who kept his head, You defy questions; You defy godhood. I walk dry on your kingdom's border Exiled to no good. Your shelled bed I remember. Father, this thick air is murderous. I would breathe water.