Swallows and Waves

Paula Bohince


Massive, the sea sweeps
and swerves, furious as a dragon.
Salt-hewn, foam-
roughed, it troubles the thirteen
swallows who cluster—
identical, overlapping—trying
to build one steady thing.
Mist wets their breasts
and makes flying heavy.  The sea
has no shore.  All middle,
dense as middle age.
Birds may be welcome, then,
as minor miracles, granting grace
to that universal struggle.

—inspired by “Swallows and Waves,” a painting by Okamoto Shuki, 1785–1832, Japan





Paula Bohince’s poems have appeared in The New Yorker, the Times Literary Supplement, Poetry, Granta, and The Nation. She was the 2012 Dartmouth Poet in Residence at The Frost Place and the 2010–2011 Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Scholar. Her most recent collection is The Children. She lives in Plum, Pennsylvania.

Read and listen to five additional poems from this series, paired with their inspirational images, here.

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Paula Bohince reads "Swallows and Waves"