827: Naming the Waves

827: Naming the Waves

827: Naming the Waves


I’m Major Jackson and this is The Slowdown.

I love the expression “love language,” if for nothing else but its sound, its alliteration. I am not sure when I first heard the phrase, but I do recall that distinct feeling of frisson, when something new entered my orbit, something fresh to chew on. The phrase leapt out because I love “love” and I love “language.” Some people love the feeling of being in love (me too), but I love the feeling of being loved into language. It is an invitation into the world of communication that’s not reliant on words. The implication of love having its own multifaceted vocabularies, in which we can strive to attain proficiency, sets a bar for me that I hope can only benefit those whom (wait for it) I love.

My love language might be when my friends share their passions. Where would I be without my friends geeking out on one thing or another? They are generous with the infectious pitch of their enthusiasm. When their voices rise and the hands gesticulate wildly about some rare sighting of a bird or an amazing new recipe, I want to immediately run out and undertake their hobbies, their pastimes, their diversions.

Thanks to them, I go down rabbit holes and forge possibilities of engaging the world where my imagination often lacks. They text links to YouTube videos and send books in the mail. They call with news of their latest discovery. Some friends alert me to new chess openings. My friend Ed texts his most recent Spotify playlists and audio files of soul singers he recently discovered. Don’t you love that phrase, “soul singer”?

In this way, the obsessions of our friends can be not only contagious but an expression of their love for us, which I find itself a gift.

The love language in today’s poem can be classified as “words of affirmation” — in this case, words that describe the seaside, but also the world that the speaker and their love share. It models a spirit of full immersion, one in which the power of seeing becomes a vow of commitment and a gorgeous illustration of affection.

Naming the Waves
by Alison Prine

Above the harbor these clouds refuse to be described
except in the language with which they describe themselves.
I stand here in the morning stillness.

Which is of course not a stillness,
the sky spreading open in the East with amber light
while drifting away to the West.

Here I can sense how the world 
spins us precisely in its undetectable turn 
somehow both towards and away.

The blue of the harbor holds
the sky in its calm gaze.
This is a love poem, be patient.

Between you and me nothing leaves,
everything gathers.
I will name for you each wave rolling up on the harbor sand:

      this is the first breath of sleep
      this the cloth of your mother’s dress
      this the cadence of our long conversation

I want to show you how everything
on this harbor has been broken:
shells, glass, rust, bones and rock—

Crushed into this expanse of glittering sand,
immune to ruin, now rocking
in the slow exhale of the tide.

"Naming the Waves" by Alison Prine. Used by permission of the poet.