Laurie Sheck

Nocturne: Blue Waves by Laurie Sheck

‘Nocturne: Blue Waves’ was written by the modern American poet Laurie Sheck. This poem captures a speaker’s feelings in the nocturnal brokenness.

Laurie Sheck’s ‘Nocturne: Blue Waves’ is about the beauty of a nocturnal landscape and the art of distancing. This poem features a speaker’s intimate feelings during a night, filled with broken images. She finds some of them interesting enough to lose herself. While some of them arouse a deeper question about human existence. How would it feel to look at the day-to-day happenings from a distance? This is the question that strikes Sheck’s persona.

Nocturne: Blue Waves by Laurie Sheck


‘Nocturne: Blue Waves’ by Laurie Sheck describes the art of distancing oneself from the daily happenings.

This poem begins with a description of a night sky. The brokenness of the images as well as the shadowy scene makes the speaker thoughtful. She opens the gate of her heart and finds herself with her lover. He touches her with his soft, warm hands. But, she can feel nothing except a solitary feeling. She introspects on death and the real value of life. Finally, she gets an answer from a text she read a while ago. It is about separating oneself from the mundane to dissolve into the infinite beauty of the world.

You can read the full poem here.

Detailed Analysis

Lines 1-8

There are times when the mind


raises his soft hand to her face … 

Laurie Sheck’s poem ‘Nocturne: Blue Waves’ begins with a reference to a particular moment. The speaker tries to be specific from the very beginning. She talks about the moment when a human being finds no mark of wholeness or completeness. These are the times when a mind wants to set free from the base emotions. It occurs especially during a still night.

The branches of some trees shade the moon. It looks broken from a distance. Wherein the finch’s shadow seems to be terribly severed. Everything around the speaker turns out to be painted in “black blood”.

In this stillness, a simple touch can annihilate her thoughts. To describe the nature of this “touch”, Sheck presents the image of two lovers. A woman eagerly waits for her lover to come into her wee room. After his arrival, he touches her with his soft hand. The sense of this touch is conveyed through this tactile image.

Lines 9-17

They lie down on the clean bed,


turned to rags in their hands.

Thereafter, the couple consummates their meeting. They lie down on a clean bed. The way they make love is compared to the “sweetness of pine”. In the following line, the poet uses the images of soft pillows and a shiny wooden room in order to complete the image.

The touch that can arouse deeper physical emotions does not work in this case. It reminds the woman of something else. She imagines the shadow of a woman who is no more. It can be any woman, probably that of hers. Regardless, she thinks about others who are wandering about outside. Some of them are going to die too.

The men outside roam in “stunned silence” (contains an alliteration of the “s” sound). Their warm flesh someday will turn into rags. So, why does touch matter? If anyone is going to die ultimately, these transient feelings do not count. It is not true yet the speaker thinks in this way.

Lines 18-24

She thinks of the woman’s arms


caged in shadows of branches as he sleeps.

In these lines from ‘Nocturne: Blue Waves,’ the speaker thinks of something. She depicts an image of a woman holding nothing. The woman stretches her hands to hold the air or the sky. But, in reality, it is impossible for her to embrace what is intangible.

Later, the woman gets up from her bed and looks at how her partner sleeps. She finds the shadows of branches cast on his throat as he sleeps soundly. It reminds her of the fact that darkness finally arrests all. No matter how valuable the things are to her, they are going to fade someday.

Lines 25-34

Distance is the soul of the beautiful,


How possible love.

The first line of this section begins with an allusion to a quote by Simone Weil: “Distance is the soul of beauty”. It means by distancing oneself from reality one can understand what is actually happening there. The process may seem a bit critical yet it helps us to understand the inherent beauty around us.

The speaker is familiar with the quote. She imagines the reality around her from a different angle. The earth is an unknown planet that revolves in deep space. While the blue waves seem to be exiled from the land. They are remorseless and do not heed to the happenings on the land. The speaker wants to be like the waves.

According to her, if the woman could go there, she would get a sense of objectivity. She can rightly understand that there is nothing that exists forever. Then the earth looks more beautiful than it actually is. Perhaps, love would have a different meaning then.


Sheck’s ‘Nocturne: Blue Waves’ is a free-verse lyric poem. It does not contain a regular rhyme or meter. The point of view of the poem is that of a first-person speaker. She depicts some of the images to draw attention to the central idea of the poem. There are a total of 34 lines that are packed into a single stanza. Sheck uses end-stopped lines in order to conclude the sense of a particular section. The length of lines is not regular. Readers can find a few instances of internal rhyming as well.

Literary Devices

Sheck makes use of the following literary devices in ‘Nocturne: Blue Waves’.

  • Personification: The first lines contain the use of this device. Here, the poet personifies the human mind and invests it with the idea of seeing.
  • Metaphor: The term “black blood” is a metaphor for the nocturnal essence.
  • Alliteration: It occurs in “black blood”, “woman waits”, “pillows, polished”, etc.
  • Anaphora: It occurs in the fifth and sixth lines of the poem. These lines begin with the word “As”.
  • Enjambment: It occurs throughout the text. For example, “There are times when the mind/ knows no wholeness” contains this device.

Historical Context

The poem ‘Nocturne: Blue Waves’ appears in Laurie Sheck’s poetry collection Io at Night. It was published in 1989. Sheck’s poems capture a number of themes. Some of her works use myths as frames in order to explore the ideas of motion and stillness, consciousness, and the human body. In this piece, Sheck describes the concepts of nothingness and distancing from a modern perspective. The idea of imminent death is also incorporated into the text. You can explore more Laurie Sheck poems.


What is the poem ‘Nocturne: Blue Waves’ about?

Laurie Sheck’s ‘Nocturne: Blue Waves’ is about the art of distancing oneself from the mundane in order to bring the soul closer to a sense of deeper understanding. An underlying essence of objectivity comes with this process that helps the mind to blur out personal emotions.

When was ‘Nocturne: Blue Waves’ published?

The poem was first published in 1989. It appears in Laurie Sheck’s one of the best-known poetry collections, Io at Night.

What type of poem is ‘Nocturne: Blue Waves’?

It is a free-verse lyric poem. There is no set rhyme scheme or metrical pattern in the text. It consists of a total of 34 lines. The lines are grouped into a single stanza.

What is the theme of ‘Nocturne: Blue Waves’?

This piece taps on a number of themes that include distancing, objective, mortality, beauty, and love. Sheck makes use of these themes throughout the text. For instance, the first few lines capture the theme of mortality and darkness.

What is the meaning of the title ‘Nocturne: Blue Waves’?

The title of the poem hints at two different ideas. First, it contains a reference to the context of the poem that concerns a nocturnal landscape. The thoughts of the poet originated during a still night. She describes how the blue waves help her to have better look at her world.

Similar Poems

Here is a list of few poems that similarly incorporate the themes present in Laurie Sheck’s poem ‘Nocturne: Blue Waves’.

You can also read about these heartfelt poems about depression.

Discover the Essential Secrets

of Poetry

Sign up to unveil the best kept secrets in poetry,

brought to you by the experts

Sudip Das Gupta Poetry Expert
A complete expert on poetry, Sudip graduated with a first-class B.A. Honors Degree in English Literature. He has a passion for analyzing poetic works with a particular emphasis on literary devices and scansion.
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

The Best-Kept Secrets of Poetry

Discover and learn about the greatest poetry ever straight to your inbox

Discover and learn about the greatest poetry, straight to your inbox

Start Your Perfect Poetry Journey

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap