The Boatman’s Reprieve

 

I

 

Where the horizon taints the volcanic fumes

There is a freedom even such stillness fiercely exudes;

A lagoon where time seeks its burial verily looms,

But from a distance the boatman only sees the masking blooms.

 

If time on such an island can bring the end of all wars

Men would seek out its shores crawling on all fours

And though the self-exiled boatman journeys in hopes a-bright

He can find no elation on the threshold of the longed-for sight.

 

For though time’s course is a river no dam could halt

The boatman realises that time, like the earth, has its fault.

Though the earth shall continue its ebb and flow through the creeping days

There is such a thing as a man’s will for the parting of ways.

 

Once upon the isles’ feasting shores of beatified stillness,

The boatman smiles pleased with the climes of his new, chosen illness.

His Fate is chained to humanity’s self-deifying flux no more

He shall accept death only now from the hands of the unmoving shore!

 

II

 

The echo of water across shell

Is the fissure of long-voyaging swells;

You boatman, what do you call your freedom

But your own one-man te deum?

 

III

 

Does man cease to exist

When in solitude you persist?

No! But his folly fades from memory

And true peace heralds the false century.

 

 

IV

 

The kingdom that witnessed the dawn of the volcanic age

Now fester in the long-forged mind with pithy rage,

As the island recalls the earth’s sulphuric birth

And its geology seeks hard to forget the great thirst,

So this man, this rupture, strives to forget the impossible Fate

That still, O still, haunts his dreams like the predations of Hate!

Where the south seas sculpt the island a new history

And scaly migrants on rafts daily introduce new, awful mysteries,

There the boatman tries to bury the smouldering lust

That forces back to the surface old loves he would love to mistrust.

‘I am a man!’ He cries where the sea bird flies,

‘I know this to be true for I can’t escape the truth that everything dies.’

To fight against the gales of this soundless torrent of living

Is to acknowledge defeat on terms nature decrees unforgiving;

So as the seasons change and the fury of the volcano thaws

The boatman submits his defeat to the sea’s court of laws,

If he returns, among men, among defeat, among the misery of chaos,

He will learn to extract defeat from the throes of most eminent pathos.

 

V

 

In his absence, the songs if the islands

Rang out, as if he had been

But a pebble in the swell.

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