Before the God-bullied hull, call me—
Before the God-bullied hull buckles, before
The red flag unfurled on water bucks and drowns,
Before the sky-hawk dives down, before
The nail drives through the sky-hawk’s red-wing—
the nail driven through the wing
And call me the wing driven through.
On water is buoyant, I know: I cling to wood—
A dictionary buckles and drowns. I know
I do not drown: I’m abridged, afloat, call me—
Sir, when my book arrives, when each page
You’ve untied lets go the breath it held
That was my breath, then my breath will not be mine—
I think you’ll know. I know when doors open
I mean to keep closed: study-door, desk-drawer.
My wife found the key I hid beneath the fern.
My pens she did not touch. She did not touch
The hundred pages I left blank to fill other days.
She took the cracked compass I keep for luck
(the needle’s sharp, but stuck), took my green-glass
Ink-pot, and centering the compass on my desk,
Poured out each dark drop of ink unitl ink
Seeped through cracked glass and left the compass
Ink-full. The gold needle loosened, floated: a line.
Bent back, I am taking you inside my head
Turning back. Ahab bent
The needle that refused North
back to a magnet’s tow—
Did, Ahab did, after
The needle’s faith answered our question: No.
How do you point at a horizon? Ask me. I know.
Needle out your arm: close eyes:
And turn in a circle. Inscribe a zero on the wood-deck—
The Equator on zero
latitudes lies. That is the truth, I know
Sir, what name that bay a last page carves
Out of no shore: ice? glacier? greenland?
strand, shoal-of-white-sand? an artic-calm?
How live, Sir, there—where I’ve been sailing?
Let me list for you, the cargo in my hold:
A brush, a mirror gilt-in-gold, a gold strand
Of wife’s hair, a dirty plate, a sink with no water,
A white-sheeted bed, a finger with a ring
That the ring hates. Sir, these bound pages
Are bound for you. I’ve a compass
Full of ink. I see I need repair, plank
By plank, my boat, while ocean-bound, while afloat.
Orphan, Ishmael, Equator-Line:
A man alone equals the wave before it crests,
Wave, before crest, equals the needle turning,
Needle turning equals the flinch of a hawk-wing,
A hawk-wing’s flinch is heaven turning
Away. Men swallow water
Sir, I meant not to be so much myself
As I am. I meant to keep my mouth closed
When wife asked, “Should I go?” and I said: “Go.”
Bow-of-the-bed, empty bow. I’m captain,
I guess, now. I fold the blank sheet back
Each morning. There’s a page I mean to read.
No hand wrote it. It’s white. It hides white
Inside another page of white. How, Sir—
Open a page inside a page? How, Sir, do you
Read the page that was written so you could not
Read it. I know, I think I know. You sleep,
Or step, or slip beneath the surface of the bed
And learn to breathe as paper breathes: with other’s breath.
And then water swallows men. A grave-magnet
Pulls them down. Fathom me—
Editor, fathom me. I am a known depth. I’m a
Definition easy: a man, a mortal man.
A man with five needles on each hand
Pointing heavenward. Heed me. I’m lost.