Surrounded by the Sea by Kip Knott

Surrounded by the Sea

         Islands intrigue me. You can see the
         perimeters of your world.
           —Jamie Wyeth

I. Orca

I have painted your hands
as pointed and sharp

as any harpoon that pierced
a leviathan’s heart.

Now you must choose
for yourself: Ishmael or Ahab?

Will you live to tell your own story?
Or will you doom yourself

to a slow death floating
among the flotsam of a ship

shattered by the mortal sin
some god demands we fight?

There is nothing more I can do.
I have given you all the knives

you need to flay this life to the bone.

II. Screen Door to the Sea

You clearly want to leave.
The door stands ajar.

What is keeping you
from disappearing into the sea-spray

and salt air? What is keeping you
from slipping out

before the clock strikes twelve?
What is keeping your eyes

locked on mine, your hands fidgeting
like gulls near the surf line?

Why do I make you stay?
What is keeping me

from painting the doorway empty
like an open mouth crying out for you

after you have walked away?

III. Other Voices

Your fingertips caress
the locked door, feel the pulse

of a muffled conversation
like some version of Braille

you have not learned how to decipher.
The voices on the other side

could be inviting you to enter,
to walk on through without turning back

and lock the door behind you.
Or they could be telling you to stay patient

with the world in which you live,
to just turn around and go back home.

And then again, there might not be
any voices at all; it might just be the sea.

All I know is that there is still time
enough for you to live your life

on this side of the threshold.
Whenever you feel the need to leave,

I swear to you I will paint the key.


Kip Knott’s most recent full-length collection of poetry, Clean Coal Burn, is available from Kelsay Books. A new full-length poetry collection, Hinterlands, will be available later this year from Versification Publishing House. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Barren, Drunk Monkeys, Harpy Hybrid Review, HAD, La Piccioletta Barca, (mac)ro(mic), and New World Writing. More of his writing may be accessed at


Jamie Wyeth – Orca
Jamie Wyeth – Screen Door to the Sea
Jamie Wyeth – Other Voices