The Good Sailor


The pitted white stones
Rise from the waves of the earth
Spines upon the back of a great serpent
Disguised as hills
Slithering through the fog and
Imparting the chill of its cold scales
In rough scraping over skin.

I walked that serpent’s back when they fed him
To the sea-stone tomb, a place
Built for the dead, by those
Who still care about
Preserving shells, hulls, and bird eggs
After they’ve broken.

I watched as it swallowed his vessel
After he had disembarked.
A ship without a pilot soon rots
Its timbers splintering, sails flagging
Grey veils rustling
In the endless, becalming wind.

There is an old riddle about such places
“The one who needs it doesn’t know he needs it.”
But in truth he really didn’t need it
He had sailed all his journey’s waters
Slew his sea-monsters
Found treasure. Found a port, drank.
Lost all his money. Moved on. Repeat.

A good sailor.

Now that sea serpent disguised
Had consumed the ship at last
Little knowing that it has missed its chance.
He had passed on to new seas of
Sliding, dark water and dancing starlight.
Rippling waves, and daybreak on the
Other side

He didn’t need it, but for some reason
We did and do.

I looked on its bloated carcass,
Where his and so many other ships
Lay in its gut.
Some were like his, having carried cargo to foreign lands
Others wrecked early, capsized in the midst of the sea
Broached and leaking from battle or being
Run aground.

Know that we need it
Because we need maps and
And portents
As we turn back to
Our own ship’s logs and charts
Plotting a little more carefully the course
Sandbars marked, storms avoided
“Here there be monsters.”
I won’t worry about that old serpent
Its timing is horrible
If one steers true
Runs a tight ship
With every scrap of sail hoisted
And bow pointed towards an undiscovered shore.