The Mariner’s Progress


“With never a whisper on the main,” so the snow falls,
glaring through the festschrift of acacia leaves
at sunrise and seeping a dye of immortelle
on mild fleece, shrinking back eternity
to flurries stalking summer cairns.
Somewhere, harpies in cruisers blare
beneath prairie clouds. An iceberg flashes, turns
a smoke of ice on the air.
The cold repels, draws out redoubling whites;
in the green heat you hallucinate where the sea runs,
light on light, creeping the heights
your new turret on the house in clouds scorns
nothing: poetry’s sub rosa, ever uncompromised,
as now, infrared crows eclipse the lawns.


And I once brute and stammering to
you toppled in a blue beach chair,
pushed to the meridian-hush island coup
talk, but your eyes search out where
children leap hotels’ sand dams and worry
the guard and his dog. The triumph of
surrender, of love flamed from history,
like that pyro-tailor’s scissors bright roar,
reducing the “treasury of the poor.”
You sputter into a blinding cough
and recover with, “Emerson?” Yes, that culprit
all along, new to me, so was Boston
Common when we waited in the trash fire of autumn
and could feel salt driving off the Atlantic.


Where the mezcal ferns begin and after them
dross wet soil rises from bank to ridge,
sunset’s slow inflation; you point; they change
in one stroke to mountain-blue foliage!
On utility poles hang night’s recessive fable.
Again, you stab the windscreen    ...    out there,
abundant still lifes, the stark inflammable
river you will cross over, recoil at the pier.
What value is the ride? In digression,
art. A mare froths in the sea the following day.
It seems, gathered up by spokes of clouds,
caught in an agonizing conversion.
You jolt towards it, but out laughed a schoolboy, way
too happy — “O Apilo!” — sun-blasted, all colors.


Clinking cavalcade inching up the Sunday
road lined with crowds: none anonymous,
moving as lines do, growing in depth of play,
unstable and absolute where they must.
Each thing has a crack, indeed. Adjust the mirror
beyond the surf’s exhortation and see
arched dolphins at equinox blur
with drizzle Port Antonio into Vigie.
Half mile of bamboo cathedral
tunnels an airy pass there once; its shadows hacked away
and in that vacancy light depreciates now.
Geography is not fate but fatal.
Gone is the corridor to hold your glory.
The sun and sea in your eyes still bow.


Pilgrim of occasional fireflies,
brooding inside the Alliance Française Pyramid,
where the wild honey expires
and the doggerel air embalms all you’ve lived,
relived with lament and praise. Pain’s license.
Silence, then the reciprocity of silence, its
immense language sends an ibis
to absolve and to mark your sins.
Late-in-life astonishment, like bitcoins
on the tongue. What you say is hidden
in noon gossip. Yes, having a gift is to be called.
Since it is given, let it go. The mind irons
bronze in water, a voice radiating:
“We please our elders when we sit enthralled.”


Ascend and bless the devil’s altitude.
Shale drifting from the sky’s blue furnace.
Slant sparks of green off the vale Santa Cruz
below, being so blessed, this is penance,
of a kind, my own road to Emmaus,
wafers upon wafers of oleanders suture
those eyes scattered and staring through dust.
Around each bend arrives the future,
which departs exactly close to Lalibela
one fleeting night the rock churches wept
by my ears, refracted Stoney Hill’s stars,
their ragged music pitching diaspora
against despair. Such music you’ve left
withstands permanently the striation of scars.


To evening air I add, “blown cane blown cane
blown cane,” and step into the Quattrocento
outside the library by the pier. All’s changed.
Blown I am a broad Antillean echo
lost in the marrow wings of a pelican,
or an albatross, cloud remnant, tasseled
low flyer below the radar of the wind.
Trade Winds. Travailed not traveled. Shit-bloodied.
A million blades choir and collapse
on repeat their absolute, surging pledge,
picked up by potholes which I jump to reach
home. Blown canes, singed from the African holocaust.
Dark breaks in me carrying your line, lucid
sandglass, seething uphill. Mine to keep and give.


The kite season is early. Little insurgence
everywhere of souls lifting, subsiding
half transparent in night’s green silence.
By morning they are fallen over the cement fence,
your childhood allamandas annunciate your last withdrawal
into heat so fierce it breaks its own laws
and the man into tears along Lapeyrouse seawall,
his umbrella kite shielding the sun from the murals.
Meantime, I hesitate on a maroon canal in Delft,
crossing water’s filial piety, erring rings whisper
“small honors in the storm” and watch moss lilies
drift into untouchable maze, fastened to each other.
Your ancestors’ spires are of ambergris,
they magnify in the water my spectral self.
More Poems by Ishion Hutchinson