My father, Guy Amirthanayagam, spoke to me once about this dark meditation, this elemental study of reason and madness. I believe he wrote it in his youth and the ocean must have been the same one that led Neruda to his own melancholic and foreboding lapping of sea water in Residence on Earth.
I can’t think of a stronger opening to a poem than the hammering in the brain and desperate rush to seek solace in a calm sea, and as I think incessantly about the tsunami, “the still older tide” turning evil that—in some strange way--my father prefigured in these verses.
BELEAGUERED NEAR THE SEA
As the old, primal images
Kept drumming in my brain,
I went to the land’s edges
To assuage my pain.
The calm sea stretched its hand
Bathed me in felicity.
My cut mind in balmy waters
Regained its unity
Till the still older tide turned
Evil, pushed me back to land
Gasping in sanity.
Guy Amirthanayagam, Selected Poems, Ceylon Printers, Colombo, 2002