Voyages from I to Thou.

Location: Skellig Michel, Ireland

Monday, January 17, 2005

Peril De Mer (Jan. 17, 2005)

The 15th-century Melker Physiologus
... has the story that the sea-creatures
sira, half-maiden, half-fish, leads
the sailors away, after which they

According to the Bestiare by Phillipe
da Thaon, the serra obstructs the ships
in a very special manner, the creature
raises its wings and, by proceeding in
front of the ship and depriving it of
wind, does great harm.

... In his Besitare, Guillam le Clerc
defines the serra simply as a
peril de mer, feared by sailors for
its propensity for sinking ships.

-- Clara Strijbosch, The
Seafaring Saint

Every voyage has its squalls,
and she is every sailor’s
honeyed nightmare, an
abscissa riding butt-naked
on the wave-mare of abyss.
Desire fraught with peril
bound her waist with
flesh above and scales
below, the sweet dive
down from her roseate
breasts trapped by
screeching terror
in the depths. Who can
resists, who would dare
to dive into that
wilding wave, which rises
twice the height of
a man’s main mast?
A sailor is composed
of such fraught foamings,
when the apparition
rises from the foggy
aft of sleep, almost
a girl, certainly
a reaper of every
throb and leap
inside my hips,
her voice almost
a surflike croon,
her blue eyes pale
and icier than
the high scimitar of
the moon. Oh what
halves sweet heaven
into shrieking hell
than those thighs
which never quite
appear above the
wave’s wild crest,
thighs which have
gripped the keels
of galleons & split
them with a sigh?
Travail here carefully,
you who would ever
shore again. She is
every drink you must
think all the way
from glow to basement
doom; you do so
by reading between
the lines of her aria,
to see the skulls
piled high amid
the whales and squid
and split mast-heads.
That breasts so close
could fan so far those
frozen depths below
is the peril de mer
you must embrace
if your would live
to write the voyage
down. I draw her
shape to the right
of the last page, or
house her in parenthesis
(here) like that conch
on every shore which
set to ear splits wide
the door where nothing
but your sighs like
whiskey pours. Listen
too long to that music
at your peril, friend:
sails of gossamer and
lace will ice and ghost
the mast, prelude to
the foam which
covers it at last.


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