Some time ago was I, mid-ocean, lost
with dog. Unfortunate, drifting board
to board until a skiff of three survivors
did like our shades enough to save them.
So we boarded by her hand's extent.
That laughing lady filled with liquor.
Not befouled by spirit. She took fine liking
by our sides, made us warm,
welcomed by the other two.
At first I said nothing.
Held close my mutt, Maelstrom, and drank
and drank free from sea's ill-considerate current.
It was three months' hard rain,
then everything under.
The shakes of days
was within me.
Waving gnawing fish from flaked flesh,
and night terrors
(I could not speak) of bigger bullies
who tried their turns.
For sharks I'd feign bloodless
well enough to wonder, deep down,
had I drowned?
Or times I could not find my dog immediately,
or if gulls got near him
I would scream them away,
scaring all of us that way.
She who found us, called Beatrice, calmed us.
Her hand light over my head,
the dog on the floor,
there were two others next to me.
By heart and eyes pretending sleep were we.
But she was voicing joys:
Italians she'd well known,
light through her old red windows in the afternoon,
tea with her own grandmother,
the Easter season ...
These things startled us.
We didn't know how to say.
Mouth opens, nod, next some sounds.
The wild kids beside me
drew their latest history on the floor before us.
(One girl, one boy.) They came from a castle
where they had room and board
but their lord did not believe them.
They'd sulk to the scullery,
put fists through festival cakes,
pour out all the mild -- nothing.
Lord Roland said it was rats.
They hated him for taking them
out of their forest, shaving their heads,
getting them used to sugar and shoes
then forgetting them.
Water rose before revenge.
They intended to saw off his ears
(his prized possissions) then feed them to the hogs.
But he'd been dead all along.
Some captor: face of lacquer, his brains
just sawdust showing through a gap
in his hatless head.
They wanted to be forgiven for his effect on them.
They waited at the battlement for the water's takeaway
but they would not be put under
and soon stopped trying to sink.
The boat found them holding fast to a tree limb
from the forest that started them.
Days we'd stretch and scrape salt from our skin,
night opened so gently
like a curtain to a picture showing
lights from satellites the likes of me
had never known before.
Something taking us away --
Bodies cagier by the day.
Evening musings would be so occupying
then they'd leave, spirited --
to populate dry land somewhere?
To guide with stars our craft?
My dog shaking the fish in his mouth
after I'd ripped the bones out.
The girl holding her hand over his thrumping tail.
There was nobody else in the water (we'd all always look).
I was curious to know where my friend ended up.
She comes back in dreams.
I see her planning her Entrance, her break into fame.
We went in together, a while back.
I was supposed to do something, I couldn't hear.
Then, quickly, she caught the circular current.
It goes around once then you go down.
It was shocking, her taking that same way as those others
who did not seem nearly as buoyant.
But the thing that takes you down; it wants what it wants.
It knew the worth of this person.
She is a jewel in the wall of the underworld
that keeps souls from despairing.
too, she is a jewel
in my brain's own
amid all the ugly and
remembered she has been
the Bright Relief
of what can be.
The light through
her is how it all
I've seen this so I know.