Wednesday, April 03, 2013

The Sea, Chapter 16

For Madison, and back by popular demand.
The Sea, part 2

Cross long travels and lonely seas
I have known two friends: two only –
but then, in years hence, with distance
and time to weigh circumstance, perchance
they never were friendly; leastwise, to me.

Of a sudden, like a dove ascending,
she appeared in the sea some ten moons
ago – a petite mermaid, silver haired, with flaxen
braids intertwined, and features frail and fine.
I made my mind to make her mine
before she said a word.
She sang to me, and her voice was all I heard:
she sang a song distress'd, voice still serene,
wherein she pleaded for refuge from a monster
below that had, intolerably, tormented her
since birth. This creature, an arcane Kraken,
was bent on her destruction, and seduction
was his weapon: seduction, his ambition.
At once, her reduxion was my mission.

I vowed at once right then, and after often,
by dawn of day, this beast would be beaten
into a state of certain sure submission;
and he, or I, or both would die in depths below.
And so it was, before the rise of sun again,
I had struck this monster's death blow
and left his heart, by sword mine, in 4 divisions;
I was violent as to force, but not as to precision.

All beauty, all frailty, all innocence,
she seemed to hold within her frame.
Demur was she, at first: by trial undone.
I studied her with kindness steady, like a brother,
and found she had not one, but a multitude of names.
And she told me each, one by one;
each day I learned another.
Each appellation was revelation
of her true self; in time I discovered
all her names save one; the first one
given at birth by her first mother.
From shame, of graces defamed,
or fear, or love, or some reason other
she would not say that name,
and though I counted it for blame,
this secret she kept covered.

I pleaded and I begged her
in addresses soulful, searching,
but she rebuffed me still the same.
To this day, I do not know, I do not know her name.

We spoke and dreamed of marriage,
but e’n as we spoke we knew,
and betrayed it by our carriage –
this was just a dream –
a dream that could not be
— a mermaid was she,
not fit, I felt, with a man like me
to marry; for my heart was on shore,
and hers was in the sea.
And we parted sad and sudden just before
– or was it after? – a storm of misery
fell full in fury upon our quiet sea.
I left her quietly as she cursed the waves that bore
me further and farther from her pleas.

‘Cross long travels and seldom relieves,
I have known and met many creatures
and peoples – some would not be believed.
Once in Hades – once only – with Medussa I dined
in company. I found her coarse, but not ungracious
wholly – and as a host – genteel to a degree.
Rough hewn by solitude, and rapacious
of amity, she was – if anything – too friendly.
Our comp'ny sat round like statues as we feasted,
and refused to join the reverie.
I cast them each curious passing
glances, but they would only gaze at her;
they never once dared look at me.
Granite faced, they stared – no matter;
I dismissed them as men with lesser manners;
I gloried in their scorn,
and talked merry with Medussa all night, unto the morn.

We talked of many things, but mostly
upon our favorite poets mused.
She was a devotee of Homer,
and she – like a lover quotes a letter –
quoted freely from his work,
and discoursed with aplomb upon
his meaning and his verse.
I quibbled only with Homer’s consistory
of gods too much like men like me.
She quibbled only with Homer’s history:
and this dismissed as myth, and biased ruse.
For in some details she was mentioned,
and in these she felt abused.

She and I discoursed, with delight, all night;
our company added only silence, stony, unenthused.
At dawn, when I left, she begged with tears for me
to stay: a day, perchance, forever.
My reason, not my heart, denied her.
For, as she spoke – every word with sighing –
something in her voice spoke treason;
and something in her deeds spoke dying.
I could not bare to look into her eyes when
I ferried back across the Styx.
In mind relieved, with heart grieved beyond measure,
I journeyed back to the living,
and quit her, with a mix of pain and pleasure.

Herein I have included, in addition to my book,
another glimpse into the life I lived by sail and hook.
These were my friends, unfriendly, only two.
My travels taught me somewhat I already knew:
somewhat I cursed myself when self reminded:
friends when false are past enemies declined;
such are enemies, times two.
Friends when true are seldom, but a gift like falling dew
upon the face of a famished man upon a salty sea;
this was a gift denied to me:
albeit, by wisdom I confess, and that sure heavenly.
With a mermaid I repined; with Medusa did I dine;
These friends were not friends mine –
but this man, this man was me.

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