v. Father’s Love
The father rises before the morning sun
and waits on the deck for her to join him.
The tranquil hush over the water is almost tangible
as it whispers reassurances to the grim
man as an old friend comforts one who is
all too aware that children are frangible.
But as regret is about to consume the poor man
he sees his shadow in the gently rippling waves
and then a small child is standing there
head held high and with a smile he braves
the bathtub waters, then shallow sand-laden shores
and, at last, the ocean, where he gasps in salty air!
How refreshing to take a step back
and allow time and the past to remind
him of the irreplaceable joy he has found in the sea
and the man feels his knotted worries unwind
as steady as the sun rises from its watery bed
for he remembers the first time he truly felt free.
And he also remembers his son’s little face
with the bright eyes (so bright!) as they looked out
toward the water as the harbor disappeared from view
and he now knows without a sliver of doubt
that bringing his son, his quick and curious little boy,
with him on the journey was the right thing to do.
The sea, oh the sea, that magnificent creature
who bares its back for the rider, the friend,
and would loyally carry him, however roughly,
to the veritable four corners and the end
of the known world and further, much further
until he has reached the jeweled infinity.
And as the man gazes into the water
he begins to laugh quietly to himself
because he realizes that he could sail forever
and still be unable to render each shelf
and reef and island in this blue world;
mapping the land was simple, but the sea? Never.
- Child’s Fantasy
Meanwhile the child has arisen in the cabin
to a state of curious wakefulness
and he spies on the desk a closed scroll
which he unravels immediately to witness
once again his father’s scrupulous handiwork
and the sight touches the child to his soul.
How he wonders at his father’s loving hands,
which he has known as long and dear as life,
crafting such a splendid work of art
as the one that now lies before him rife
with the miniscule penned in names of
towns and cities that made the chart.
And how he sees! How he imagines the faded
blue water on the map coming to life and roiling
with storms to send chills down the neck of even
the saltiest sea dog; how he imagines the coiling
mass of iridescent scales on the sea monster’s back
as it shrieks— oh! The things to believe in.
The maidens’ heads along the edges of the map
are perpetually blowing wind but the inked swirls
begin to churn as if risen from a slumber;
a mermaid with sharp teeth and a string of pearls
leaps from the waves and grabs onto the banister
with inhuman screeches and eyes a burnt umber.
But now his imagination is flying fearfully free
and he cannot reign in the nightmarish visions
of tentacles ten men wide snatching him from
the safety of the ship, and the almighty collisions
of thunderclaps and lightning cracking through the
angry black sky with a booming background hum.
The child lies in a pool of eldritch astonishments
with his mind ever-so-delighted and frightened
by all of these impossible, plaguing thoughts
until at last the skies are brightened
by daylight and his father finds him
curled up like a map, fists as tight as knots.
vii. Awaiting Land
“Careful, child, with that map,
for I have penned each little island
upon days of thought and observation,
gazing down from the crags of a highland
slope or circling around the lagoons
of some foreign man’s sea nation,”
The father chuckles, withdrawing the map
from his child’s coveting arms and
smoothing it out so that the officious
eyes which would later on land
on the delicate handiwork of the chart
could not be of imprecision suspicious.
“Father, you would not believe the many
things I had seen when I gazed upon
such pictures, the beautiful things
I had seen in the things you had drawn
and the terrifying ones too, like shipwrecks
and— how the veiled thunder rings!”
“An adventurous mind, no doubt,”
the father replies with tender
nostalgia and something else in his voice,
“but while the sea can render
one speechless from awe, or a
babbling admirer (your choice)—
there remains in the distance
the lands shrouded by mist
that this ship brings us towards
and how those adolescent, wind-kissed
landscapes and their people will
strike in your young heart feverish chords!
And for the love of all adventure,
which I share with you as well,
I bid you accept this present
from your father— a new ink well,
a sharp-tipped pen, a roll of sheets—
yours to determine their future contents.”
viii. The Present
And isn’t it absurd, how quickly
fate rushes in to claim the
unsuspecting father and his son?
With great wings it will soar
into the sky like thunderclouds
to obscure the midday sun.
Isn’t it absurd, how flesh could be
torn from flesh as if there ever
needed to be something strange
and supernatural to sever
that beautiful paternal bond,
two lives forever to change?
For it takes but a wave, a strong
wave of the sea or of the hand
to end this relationship
and, all of a sudden, the planned
endeavors of father and son
disappear underwater with the ship.
For it takes not a life, a fragile
human life which flickers
ever candle-like in the wind
of consciousness, but liquors
of drunken naiveté that
bring said life to bitter end.
And in newfound soberness
the child floats away alone
on a plank of wood that had been
the wall of some poor windblown
body’s cabin; and he shudders in
terror at the things he had seen.
The gifts from his father he grasps
tightly but as he comes to
understand, this boy of but seven,
he lets them sink slowly into
the ocean; for no map on earth
could help him find heaven.