VOL XV, Issue 3, Number 167
Editor: Klaus J. Gerken
Production Editor: Heather Ferguson
European Editor: Mois Benarroch
Contributing Editors: Michael Collings; Jack R. Wesdorp; Oswald Le Winter
Previous Associate Editors: Igal Koshevoy; Evan Light; Pedro Sena
Water and Earth
Maarle and Ulf
Off the Record
Report from Rongelap
Lighthouse Keeper's Log
Sailors! We hold thee in awe and admiration. Without you we'd be
circumscribed by rigid horizons: forest, farm fields, town walls,
mountains. But you gazed upon the stars and went to meet them. Despite
superstitious tales or ferocious consequence. Across the channel in
fragile rattan coracles, on papyrus rafts outside the pillars, in
slatted sampans on the pacific deep, fleet outrigger canoes to superb
islands, redsail longboat dragon prows amid groaning icebergs, sloops
and schooners and china clippers beyond imagination. You realized our
dreams. Thousands of wrecks strewn along the skeleton coast of Cape Cod
attest your courage. Yours was the first true democracy. Most of you
are nameless, without stone or keepsake. Each time you shipped out we
died a bit. When you came back to us we lit up the church. For you
deckhands and fishermen who hazard Profundis: the blinking lights will
always be there.
Water and Earth
Endlessly the waves walk in,
each a wandering wraith
upon the breast of manifest,
wanton force, and faith.
Amidst the sand they curl and pray,
each stone an altar bare
awaiting for its courtesan
that they might twine and fare.
And when their lot is consummate
I see them witness long,
for twain are met in harmony,
devotion, depth, and song.
We set the light to winking
though there's no one there,
waste of effort so you'd think
and who the hell cares
if some idiot goes down
into the big deep
where there ain't no boojum sound
and frozen light sleeps.
We do it for the prospect,
for because we vowed
that soul blossoms electric
where there's nothing now.
That's the way it is with me,
we are devoted
to none just as me
and we send our boat
into places no one dares
to picture or think
because grace is loved and rare.
That's why the light blinks.
Time runs backwards on this beach
where quartzite sand disappears
trackless bent you cannot reach
the clock's differential gears.
Funnel hand numeric face
drifting hourglass rhythm tick
tunnel sprocket shifting place
sloping surface whisper quick
ratchet movement increment
stoneward parabolic tide
on the brink with covenant
oathbound bridal rosary
reverse pebble entropy
cubic salt loves curling sea.
Guys in the navy
plowing through massive
pacific my ass.
We landlubbers are
mostly scared shitless
by water and war,
it's likewise our kids.
how courage is found,
except maybe sons
whose fathers were drowned.
Godspeed all ye who dare the waves
and find your rest in unmarked graves,
fair wind and swift the curling crest
nor faint of heart within your breast,
persistent hand laid on the wheel,
eternal depth beneath your keel
out on Profundis where god fares,
bringing to harbor foreign wares,
of the brilliant tales you will tell
we who wait we will toll your bell.
Sing the ship to rise
out of solid sea,
fill her hold with prize
and soft mystery,
under billow sheets
mid uncharted wrecks
when her tide runs fleet,
let her compass drift
where the heart tastes brine,
and her bowsprit lifts
from abandoned wastes
dipped in mellow wine,
rare to court or land,
roistering in port,
may she heel to hand
till stars fall asleep
and it's time to slip
back into the deep.
The view from the crow's nest was fabulous,
I could see forever and then some more.
Above the spume a skirling albatross
broached the storm with archaic benchmark lore.
All along the galley staunch oarsmen rest,
tell tales of serpent worms or Inka freight
and the edge of the world waiting out west.
Down below where old bilge rats congregate
to spread their future lots poker table
I will hear the carousing waft aloft,
and flotsam along the anchor cable
drowned sailors are singing requiem soft
of how tomorrow shall be on fire
with drunken dreams of wings and desire.
Captain Gurk he trade me for stuff,
galley sweep he say no reprieve.
I row raider three years grow tough;
thirty moon gone they believe me.
After that I can sleep on deck
haul up net help reef sail and so.
One day big wind blow boat is wrecked
on rocks I swim where I don't know.
Beach feels good first land in many
I walk village beg food find work
save all copper penny some gold
keep one hunger before too old
find bastard Gurk chain him to oar.
After five years faithful service
my master bid me take a wife.
Next day I summoned up my nerve
and told him something of my life,
I said, "sir, back home I'd be king
of a thousand farms and valleys,
I could take my pick of wenchlings
or send you, sir, to the galleys."
He bent his head attentive low
but did not speak a word, I said,
"your women here are foreign foe
of my people, I'd rather wed
one of my own with curly hair,
raise sons among my enemies,
and maybe someday they will dare
to go home, if it please you. Sir."
My master reached into his safe
and handed me a heavy purse.
"Go to the market, buy a slave,
get an expensive one of course,
if you need more coin so be it."
And thus it came to pass that week
I could have bought my freedom swift
from any corsair captain Greek.
Instead I haunted granite docks
waiting for ships I knew would come
with a girl destined for the block
smelling of cobalt, mace, and home.
She was naked bound with iron,
I recognized her right away,
we had shared the selfsame fire
so long ago on wanemoon nights.
The trip back was uneventful,
four days on a bullock cartwheel
filled with armor and canvas tents,
and so it went our fate was sealed.
Today I am my master's earl,
I oversee the forge and swords.
Young Maraam of the glossy curls
teaches our children foreign words
and at night she tells them stories
of how it once was long ago
in a land of gold and glory
far to the south where rainbows fall.
They are a bold lot, as was I,
way back then in my master's hall.
We are no longer slaves, he says,
we may fight to be free, or die.
It's the most fortunate of stars,
this kingdom is at war with Troi,
most white Greek men are called to arms,
all the more chance for our black boys.
I have bought a felucca boat,
sufficient provender to wrest
a living from the sea afloat,
we'll trust our gods and sail far west.
But one last memory to name,
though he held our chain and farrow,
because we know he's not to blame
for our enslavement or sorrow.
Thus becometh Maraam with child,
we suspect a strong and wildling,
when we get home he will bear long
a Greek's name and he will be king.
Maarle and Ulf
Vikings infest our waters;
four hundred besiege our keep.
Gort bids me hide his daughter
while he bests them on the deep.
We move by moon overland,
seven weeks in Fingal's cave,
spend a month with Fergael's band
and three days at Brodgar's grave.
Then a night reckless passage
to where kaerel pirates lurk,
an island of scrannel sedge
in the Ijssel meer called Urk.
Shadow voices at the grate,
windlass creak and byrnie bright,
olden oath-bind consecrate
in the flicker fire light.
The best place to hide a gem
is draped with soot and tatters
plain in sight of diadem
and royal prideful matters.
Thirteen years of menial bann
among those corsair Frisians,
at the hearth of boereman
Thirteen years, then comes a prince
of Vikingsholm the heirloom,
also hidden with the kin
of kaerel brae and Beradrumme.
Maybe Maarle seems naught a maid,
maybe Ulf can see the truth,
more their skein I shall not braid
nor compromise their sooth.
Nine months hence a fair haired child
with flashing eyes and prowess,
elven wold and skraeling wild
on the strand of Raubal ness.
And who is to say what maught
be the issue of our stead
across that perilous gulf
by the skald of princess Maarle
and a prince called Ulf the Red.
beat against a southwest gale
reefed it down to main pole sheets
started out as rain, then hail
finished off with slop and sleet
put Diego at the wheel
heading for Fuego Pass
stanchion's cracking in the keel
broken rudder pinion hasp
got a shudder in her wark
drank up all our grog and beer
eerie fog, faint sounds, too dark
maybe we found big fin sharks
we ain't never been round here
Off the Record
I'm waiting on the tide,
chanced upon some wreckage,
boat fairing slammed cockeyed,
then a floating deck chair.
I know the guy is dead,
cold and stiff as mutton,
while searching for his wallet
I undid a button.
A camera fell out,
a tiny digital,
I plug it in my Dell,
there he is on the bridge
of some dowdy freighter,
here's one of a party
looks like the equator,
and eight off the taffrail
can't quite make out what's that,
this one's off his frail raft
the boat's listing badly,
my hair stands electric
as the next one boots up,
a massive tentacle
and the hull is ruptured,
the last one is nothing,
just some pall, loath, slobber,
that's all and his clothing.
I gave it to the cops.
At the Horny Mermaid
soaked in Fuller's ale,
just been on a raiding
to the Ulster jail, lads,
to the Ulster jail.
Busted out our captain
and the second mate,
picked them up running rum
doon at Billingsgate, boys,
doon at Billingsgate.
Took the low road silent
wearing seal skin boots,
round covert'n byways
where we hide our loot, lads,
where we hide our loot.
At the Horny Mermaid
underneath the floor,
fifty ruddie barrels
waiting there for more, men,
waiting there for more.
I shipped with Sam. We were almost home,
our hold full of ballast bullion swag.
We lost our rudder in boiling foam,
I made shore on a coconut bag,
but my brothers went down in the gale.
I spent three months at the Hackett place
and then some Bostown hung me in jail.
Ain't no hiding my Indian race.
They sold me off as a carriage slave
cause there warnt no point in hanging coons,
being a horse worthy blackabrave
made me more precious than pressganged goons.
Some hidden moons on the Eastham tide
I walk with Sam and his widowed bride.
First thing this hippie does he spooks the cruise,
spreads our cards out in the officers' mess.
Captain Fred was pissed when he got the news,
don't cotton to superstitious I guess.
But I was there; I heard this longhair sooth:
"For so long as I'm on board all goes well,"
he said, "and I'll always tell you the truth."
So he scrubbed the galley till seven bells
and ate with us gobs in the lower bay,
we sorta liked him didn't let it show
and quietly hoped he'd wanta stay on.
That's the way it works with spooks who blow through;
never cross `em. He jumped ship about nine
last night we knew and then we hit the mine_
It was a helluva storm,
the crow in my nest fell down,
and the Ourobouros worm
flailed her barroom rest around.
I could hear stars blinking off,
dunno what became of earth,
the very fabric of stuff
got sucked back into the blurth_
Then I saw a hand appear,
a black one out of raw myst,
and an eye blunking with blear
that'd be god drunken and pissed.
I couldn't tell who was which
or the what from where's the floor,
rubber legs and that's a bitch
bare grub hair just gimme more.
I handed him a hammer,
land lubber dog puke shudder,
nausea seasick tripper
you know ships don't log a damn
if they ain't got no rudder.
Fair winds, God, getcha sails up,
forge some froth, how's about cheer,
and the oceans burned with cups
of palest alembic beer.
The wreck happened while I was sleeping;
I woke up in the water at night
clutching styrofoam when it got light
and getting ready for the deep six.
I floated like dead two days until
the foam crate got waterlogged and sank...
(there's a timeless moment here I think
I think I think I was listening)
...then I spotted some planks from the wreck,
still wanta live, huh? I built a raft
of canvas and rope and sailor craft.
There I spent a week bailing on that deck;
it rained, I drank my fill, I ate fish.
I managed a sail from some plywood
and a rudder that worked pretty good.
I made lots of god help me wishes;
the wind blew me west, not a good sign,
Columbus risking mutiny men
there must be land-ho! somewhere and then
it all turned red, I feared I was blind,
and then a voice murmured, "it's this way."
I had a conference with a bird
who wore a crown oh I'm crazy lord,
I spent another day just waiting;
that night I heard waves, the sounds of reefs.
I thought I thought this must be the breath
you take the last one before your death
it no longer matters about grief,
I screwed my faith on tight and leaped long,
I'm in my element swimming strong,
then alongside some big kelp strewn rocks,
I know the ticking of giant clocks,
a wave god help me carries me in,
and I don't remember where I've been.
At dawn I redeem my lubber legs,
live offa eating birds, turtle eggs,
occasionally I fare out to fish,
sometimes I gather fire drift wood,
it is good here, I have stopped wishing.
Report from Rongelap
We rescued this crazy haole
off one of the outlying reefs.
Says he's been there five umpteen years,
I dunno if we believe him.
But there's this: he's in damn good shape,
wears a serious mako tooth
he says he took off the west cape,
and who are we to say "prove it."
Our wahines like him well enough,
two of `em are willing to wive,
and what the hell he's got the stuff
right up front just being alive.
We've offered him brother-table;
we think he'll take us on able.
They let me sleep at the gallery,
and I go pearldiving for my keep
in the galley at Alicer's Eats
where the chow comes plentiful and cheap.
But they don't allow me in the bar
up front where toffee swells congregate,
ain't fancy enough and smells of tar
me who once held a captain's rating.
So I spend hard times chuffin' with gulls
and home's a bench, I'm local color;
some days go scavenging cast up hulls
and dream about slipping my bollard.
It haunts me I'll ship out, can't say when,
but I know I won't lay here again.
The island is far removed,
not on any compass chart.
I can't even prove it's there,
indeed that it's anywhere
but in the need of my heart.
It's got a green eyed lagoon,
surf that curls on pristine slopes,
softly curved dunes that shimmer
in pearling moonlit glimmer
that clings to the breast of hope.
I think it takes vast daring
to leap swirling in such waves,
to cast your net enchanted
where silhouettes feel canted
in the haunting of your grave.
But the prize is marvelous
if you make such flights on faith,
unravel stars and sunlight,
travel mighty horizons,
summon heaven's carriage lathe.
God I should reach such fortune
to retire when I'm spent
on fields of winepress orchards
or a beach where torchlight flares
round a fire fair with friends.
If you sail long and far enough
eventually you'll find the edge
where time stops and stuff falls away.
And if you then stand on the ledge
maybe you'll see her hand spinning
the wheel of everything there is,
weaving nothing into something
dancing deft about her business.
Not a place we can understand;
infinity boggles the brain.
it's like a beach and we're but sand
bent through sprocket glass grain by grain.
We keep a monster horn blaring
even though we know it's useless
since there ain't nobody faring
out there in the deeps where senseless
things with house size fangs can eat your
sight and soul in a single gulp,
and there ain't no one to greet you
when you're frightened bawling for help;
but just in case someone gets lost
we burn a light and hang the cost.
Stuff to duffelbag:
slippers, woolen socks,
ancient signal flag,
saw blade, sundial clock,
the big wooden flute,
first aid kit, lenzlight,
vitamins, dried fruit,
EZpatch, felt pens,
every garden seed,
our civilized ken,
sparkle trading beads,
won't be back again.
Lighthouse Keeper's Log
Finally, very slowly and simply,
the oceans rose to engulf the cities.
New fires ruled the land: Famine and Fear.
With their sisters Plague, Barren, and Despair.
Four horsemen were reported on the Thar;
didn't say if they'd crossed the Sahara.
I hid my garden in a chain link field;
drank sparingly from a deep spring-fed well.
At the end of my tenure the ocean
brought her beach to my tower's foundation.
I built a coracle and sailed it south;
didn't leave nothing. Just some stories. Myths.
Up above the Hudson sea
a sentinel winks,
reputedly the aerie
of a wizard king.
I went there to snoop it once,
it's a hairy climb
along the Great Manitou
under whisper pines.
About a mile from the plinth
a footpath improves,
it's said there be therebinth
but I saw no hooves.
Following the ancient edge
as Inds must have done
I found a mount on the ledge
with a cannon gun.
The bore is green with lichen,
probably a poon,
I've heard they used to shoot pikes
the size of my sloep.
Up on top it's undisturbed,
evidence is clear:
cut steps, massive kerbs,
the Worker was here.
I found a marble tablet,
most likely a grave,
the chisel marks are damaged
but I could read "brave".
The tower shaft is a ruin,
there's no stairs to climb,
strangely there's no litter strewn.
The place tastes of time.
I camped by the door that night,
dared whatever spooks,
I don't know what makes the light,
some say it's a nooke.
Nothing happened, nothing weird,
except for the wink,
every minute there's a gear
up there that goes plink.
Morning orange majesty
itself's worth the walk,
I saw some olden magick
and I heard pines talk.
Once I was a mountain side,
now I am a beach,
sand beholden to the tide
on the outer reach.
Twice a day the water moves,
twice again by night,
wear away my rune and grooves
when the moon is bright.
Someday I will be a stone
pressed within the fold
of my Lady's golden throne
as I was of old.
The Edge, Copyright (c) 2007 Jack Wesdorp
All poems copyrighted by their respective authors. Any reproduction of
these poems, without the express written permission of the authors, is
YGDRASIL: A Journal of the Poetic Arts - Copyright (c) 1993 - 2006 by
Klaus J. Gerken.
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