Voyages from I to Thou.

Location: Skellig Michel, Ireland

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Boat Song Two (2001)

He would say the most terrific things
to his crew, in a tone so strangely
compounded of fun and fury, and
the fury seemed so calculated merely
as a spice to the fun, that no oarsman
could hear such queer evocations
without pulling for dear life,
and yet pulling for the mere joke
of the thing. — Moby Dick

The pulling’s the thing — Pull hard!
Pull deep! Maul the sinews
of your work from the
bottom of your heart!
Only in such surrender to
the task will ye reach
that mountain of hellfish!
Row as if perdition’s jaws
were snapping right behind ye!

—It’s that vital,
though the real sea
is a thousand leagues
from this dry watch,
a cozy chair at 4 a.m.
with a heating pad
comforting my back
and a pile of the usual
books to my right:

Row hard or you’ll never
breast the mystery within!
To you only poems
of wakes and
soundings and spume
too far in the distance.

Row for everything and all,
man awash in
in a wilderness of verbs!
Make each stroke count!
There’s a bucket of
sperm gold brimming
hot beneath you, an
oil for every lamp
burning down winter’s
night. — Row, man!
Write these wild seconds
before they sound again!


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