Thursday, April 1, 2010

2 of 30:

because he cast the books upon the fire,
because the angel stands at every locked door
we took to the sea in search of paradise

and the storm drove us on for fifteen days
till we came to the island of silence
where we followed a dog
to an empty city,
the beds turned down, the lamps bright
the larders stocked, but not a soul astir

long shadows fell in the quiet houses
clocks kept the hours till the world falls

we would not be satisfied, and
cast off again

and came to an island of sheep
the streams thick with trout
and another thronged with wheeling birds
and one lit on his shoulder and laughed
“seven years you will wander,
and still not find what you seek”

and ever west, we came to land
on a great stone resting in the sea
and going ashore, found nothing
and lit a great signal fire,
and stood round in a ring
and the ground trembled
and we were sore afraid
and returning to the boat,
saw the beast whose back we had stood upon
sink beneath the waves,
one black eye like the moon below the water

and rested, after, on an island of men whose tongues had died in their mouths
and their silent abbot, only, his voice cracking from disuse
said “eighty years”, and his voice was as a library of dust

and leaving them, we skirted those shores
where the head of judas rests
one side frozen, the other burning
speaking in a strange tongue
and weeping stones,
and men with the heads of pigs
scream among the flames
and rivers of golden fire pour from the black mount of hell
and one of our company was swept overboard, and lost
and worms devoured the outer skin of the boat
and the sea was still and white as milk
and still we chased the sun over the world's rim

and a beast rose up, horrible mouth
open, the fish fleeing before him
till swallowing his tail, he encircled the boat
and closed round like a hangman's knot
till the ribs of the currach creaked
and he sank like a stone, and the storm came after
and our captain sang, and the fish circled round to listen
and calmed the sea

and we came to a column of ice, or glass
that rose up from the sea farther than we could see
smooth and windowless
surrounded all around by golden nets
so vast we sailed between their meshes,
and called out, but none answered
and three days we sailed round that watchtower
and into fog so thick we could not see

and were met in that grey land by a youth
so curious I could not describe him
who took half of our company ashore
to a land so green one could not believe it
and for fifteen days we wandered in that blessed place
where the sun never sets
till we came to a river so wide we could not cross
and the sound of far of singing, and a grey light
as a city casts its own false dawn on the horizon
or the glint of metal seen from afar
and our guide would speak no human tongue
but would take us no farther
and there was sound of thunder

returning to our companions,
we were met with much alarm,
for they had waited in the harbor for a year and a day
living only on such fish as they could lure with lines,
and rain was their wine

and the wind lifted, and we sailed back
the way we had come, and now I am an old man
and still I do not know what we saw there
here we keep the hours
and after Compline, we enter the great silence.

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