Voyages from I to Thou.

Location: Skellig Michel, Ireland

Monday, November 22, 2004

Tapestry (Nov. 2004)

In the story of my father’s
name (a bastard relic
now at best) there are
harpists in our history
who entertained the
Norman kings in the
south of Ireland: And
when those kings and
their courts washed
back into the Irish
sea, their minstrelsy
wandered forth, seeking
patronage in whatever
semblance of a court
that sad country
could provide. A
family singer of the
17th century lamented,
“who will buy a poem?”
and concluded, “I’m
a ship with a ruined
cargo/now the famous
Fitzgeralds are gone./
No answer. A terrible case./
It is all in vain that I ask.”

Perhaps that’s why
one of ours boarded
the Sea Sprite in
1779, carrying that
music to Boston Harbor.
But when were your
songs ever safe, praising
the rise of kings who
always fell, revelling
in love’s wild delights
beyond the pale of
papal decree and
the prying eyes of
royal husbands? Such
blasphemy and scandal
have always pleased you
well, even if your
mortal lovers all found
sorrow at the far ends
of their verses. No matter.
All those years I wandered
and blundered learning
how not to drink from
those three cups of song
which festoon my father’s
crest: a delight only to
you. Certainly not for
my mortal loves; nor
even much in my
long education in
singing mortal songs about love.
The rise and fall of
every wave to you
is holy and florid,
no matter how wet
and scraggly my
leaps become in them.
That naked man
astride the mean-
looking dolphin atop
the crest -- he’s not
giving up the song.
That’s plain from
the motto -- Not by
Providence but Victory!
which is written under
wall like a labia
buzzing a Bronx cheer
to every noble aim
and their chaste remains.
You love this sweet
cacophony of lost
and lonely songs
forever hitting shores
you’ve just left behind.
Whatever I set to paper
here was lifted from
that sweet air
drifting in from
the absence you hurl,
like perfume, everywhere
you’ve been: A high
strange music which
my lyrics dare complete
or at least ferry to
the next wild shore
flapping in the breeze
like your dress
just out of sight.
Libraries and chapels
and writing chairs
are just our way
of trying to master you,
as men build dams
and bulwarks against
the sea. But the music
like a tide is crashing
down the shore
where you are close,
oh, closer than the
margin of a kiss.
You have made of me
a brine-soaked harp
which sings of you
everywhere there’s
moonlight on the strings
and blue dazzle in the springs.


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