in this dark night should peer past
human knowledge into God’s to find
the truth of things untrue. Lying
sleepless upon a battered mast,
whilst floating lonely in a starless,
stormy, sea, I see: knowing, I know less.
Finding, I have less, not more;
searching, I am never nearer shore.
Sea upon sea sprawls before me
in vast recess, with mystery e’r stored.
Sight in hind, sight declines most
when ‘pon past miseries trained;
for miseries o’rwhelm life and love,
and cover the good disclosed:
like frost upon the rose.
Yet, I sift ‘mong the memories. I hunt
for slivers of light in shade:
Convinced, there lives
in shadows, brighter days. Sane
I may not be, and dancing shadows give
little light; but what light I have,
I cherish – lest at last my last light perish,
and my last hope be undone.
‘Cross long travels and dreary distances
I recall only a single season of repose.
It was a long time ago, perhaps fancy,
and nothing more, when I was happy
in a place not so unlike a home.
Some seven suns ago, upon the Isle
of Numenor, I capsized and spent
a summer drinking Miruvor in mild
sunshine. The women deemed me wild,
but harmless all the same. The men
deemed me wise, and to a man, a friend.
By all I was beloved; by all, esteemed.
But summer hasted onward, and unrest
began to grow. For, the Island’s absent king
imposed a tax for past protection.
A demand, it seemed to me, in keeping
with proper fealty of subjection.
But, the men of the Isle were incensed,
and felt their honor sore offended.
For my part, I reckoned the hostility
a nuisance: a distraction soonly ended.
As mad men planned revolt; I laughed,
objected mildly, and scarcely dreamed of war.
Scarcely, but battle plans belied me,
and the Isle grew louder, crueler, bored;
for blood they were restless, and for
freedom of a sort denied to mortal men.
The king threatened; still, the fools boasted more,
and more. At last, the king's anger
above his mercy soared,
and he grew wroth to settle scores.
I suppressed fear, but feared more;
I protested betimes contention, and hoped –
in folly – that peace would be restored.
I declined to a kind of idle foolish ease,
and ignored all signs of certain strife
—until, on the day the first bite of Fall fell,
I woke a month into the war
to the sound of siege alarm, and the smell
of blood on blade,
and the cries of widows made.
I emerged, sleepy, dazed –
fires raged, and the stench of death
filled my heart, and cursed my far
flung dream of a home upon this sea.
I beheld men and women fleeing toward,
and away from, war. In the city center,
savaged, I beheld an infant standing,
famished, before a dessicated fountain.
I wept for orphans walking, lonely,
toward the citadel in the mountain.
For, by then, the mountain was no more.
I crawled across carnage to my little ship
as the Isle sank, and with luck, escaped – I only.