Poem: Eliza and the Sea

eliza

Let me tell you a tale of the worlds

 *

She sat upon the jagged rocks,

The sea surged about her –

They were her allies – her closest

Friends – her sources of strength and power

 *

The spray, the mist, the foam, the

Bladderwrack, the sunken submarines,

And great triumphal arches of gored

Mountain sides

*

She sat upon the rocks.

And surged along with the surge

*

II.

Let me tell you a tale of the worlds

There is the Overworld

And the Underworld

And within these two concentric circles,

All things overlap, interpenetrate, unite,

And fight, so that, from the One, comes

Two, and from the Two, comes

Many

 *

III.

She sat upon the rocks,

The mist, the spray – all hers first –

She sat upon the rocks

*

She knew she would have to

Go out to sea any day now. The

Gulls in all their sky-ambling circularity

Of prophesy; every strident laugh, a

Signal of an unforgettable voyage, already

Forgotten, memorized by the sea, until it

Swallows

*

“Embark! Embark!” the winds call,

And the anchors drop. “Embark! Embark!”

Cry the clouds. They are hungry with thunder,

The sea populated with embryonic waves, that

Paint the jagged curves of Chaos’s sweet

Surface.

*

“I am Captain Eliza O’Malley,” she

Said in consideration of herself. “I am

The Greatest Stowaway of my Age. I was

Forbidden entry into this world by The Lady

Of the Lake. But, I am The Lady of the Sea!

The shipwrecks are all a-search for me,

But they will never find me.”

*

IV.

So, it is possible to be a feast

For all things:

To keep a foot in one world –

A webbed toe in another

 *

Christ will wash your foot in one world,

Satan will manicure your toes with his tongue

In another;

Then they will trade places,

For they are both the same

*

V.

Eliza O’Malley was the Captain

Of her ship. She would sleep all

Night in the beak of storms – in the

Gills of stentorian leviathan, struggling

To sleep in the deeps

*

She had killed all her family,

And left them behind her,

But families are just ghosts out here,

And everybody must kill a ghost,

Before they go out to sea

*

Eliza sang her song:

“If those waves were ladders

That snaked downwards instead of

Upwards, how fast would I have to be

For them to appear statuesque and

Still? A typhoon is a portal – the swilling

Of seawater in Neptune’s jaws, before he

Turns off the faucet of time. I have read of The

Esquimaux – how their seafaring shamans

Would dive to the bottom of the ocean,

To brush the knots in Sedna’s locks.

*

“But who will unleash the locks

In my own hairs? Can’t you see how

Every strand interlinks with a cloud;

Every cloud interlinks with a station;

And every station interlinks with a

World? These are all just different

Frequencies, my dear. They shift and

They slide, and oil the tide, of the swift’s

Wings, in blackness, beside,

*

“So, world-strewn is my hair.

But, if braided, tressed, and spun

Out for miles, these hairs and

Fibrils would seem like nothing.

 I would raise my arms up to the

Sky – the sky would lower its arms

To me – for every lass must marry

The Sky, afore she go to sea!”

*

V.

Eliza wrote this story by a lantern,

A tender flame – we call it ‘a sun’

In our universe – but it is but the reflection

From the window of a moving train in hers

*

A black shadow with blue and crimson eyes

Climbed into the galley of her ship where she

Kept her quarters:

*

“What do you do, Eliza?” he asked her.

“Is this your life: just to roam and be

Roamed?”

*

“Isn’t it everyone’s?” Eliza shouted

Back defiantly, slamming down her

Gin. “How can you escape the wanderlust

Of ages? The nautical lust to want to be

On the other side of the porthole? To

Lash yourself to the pounding heart

Of every tide? To set sail astride the stars,

And dip your feet into the udders of galaxies,

Until you are completely stranded in the isometry

Of time’s restless motions?”

*

“But you are all alone,” the shadow

Said softly. “Where are the people in

Your life? Where are you friends? Where

Are all the smiling eyes that will nestle

Kindly upon the words you’ve written

In these pages?”

 *

“I AM THE SEA!” Spake Eliza.

And she said it with such power,

That no one would dare doubt her.

“You maggoty false-breed! You trifling

Piece of spume! You tornado squeezing

Out of the flatulent arse of time! How

Dare you drift into my quarters, with your

Insinuating words, and half-spun slogans,

And question my worth for the world?!

I am The Lady of the Sea!

And you would all be nothing

Without me.”

 *

The shadow smiled at his case.

And disappeared once again into the dark.

*

VI.

Eliza shuddered at the shadow’s words.

She had flashbacks of late nights and drunken

Mornings; of climbing into bed with sweaty breasts,

Getting lost in the limbs of hairy men, the organic

Machinery of sex, the hidden ocean within, disembarking

On crystal caverns, of groans and moans echoing through

Coves, sea-shanties of sex, that pounce of bedsprings,

Reopening ancient treasure chests, sealed, but never

Forgotten.

*

She could remember all those things,

Because the sea never forgets –

It just goes on, remembering and

Forgetting, with the dementia and

Hypermnesia of every uncertain

Wave –

*

Sea Log: Autumn, Winter, January,

September, 1972, 1665 – the shadows

Did not come again today. But I can still

Feel his judgement. What am I doing so

Wrong? I have never experienced anything

But affirmation before. I go out

Onto the decks, and I am applauded

By every albatross. The clouds come to

Me in fetters to beg pardon for stealing

My sunshine away. But I curse the sun!

The sea is the sun’s grave! And I will

Eat his light into my belly, as sure as

What’s made beest unmade!”

(But the judgement still hung heavy about her)

*

“So, you want me to go back to land, do

Ye? To seek out people? Well, I tell ye,

There be no people out there! All those

Land-lubbers are just ghosts. You can walk

Through all their cities and see nothing but

Ruins.

*

“But, out here, everything is emergent.

There are no ruins. The coral reefs are

Like ancient cathedrals, robed in sand,

Rebuilt every day by the waves’ secret

Masons.”

*

But, then back to 1772,

Jocosely addressing her pirate crew:

*

I tell ye, boys, there be barnacles

Upon my breasts, as sure as there’s

Cockles in my larder! Let the canons

Spell out incipient destruction, and

I’ll tell you how I lay there . . .”

FLASHFORWARD

 *

And, she still lays there like

That, thus-wise, with the bladderwrack

Rising up around her, a constriction of

Seaweed charming her into paralysis

Every night, searing her body in visions

So vivid, they would frighten the giant

Squids of the deep

*

“I tell you – I LOVE THE SEA!”

She shrilled into her writing desk.

“But, when I die, will the sea mourn

Me? Will it attend my funeral? Will

It weep for me? Or has the sea e’er

Been weeping? It is for this that it

Beest so wet?

 *

“I have never known a dry moment

In my life. When you used to

Come towards me, Harry, and towel

Me down, how I used to scream! Don’t

Divest me of the last vestiges of my partner!

It was bad enough living in a house with you,

And not feeling the ground swell and rock

Beneath me, except when we were in bed,

Harry, my dear – I could really feel the

Curtains decked with spray then! Oh, to be

Alive and in your arms! And the arms of the

Sea! I could never tell you apart from the sea,

My Harry. So, when I was away, sailing, for

Months on end, for years, for centuries, it

Was as though I was sailing upon you, my

Harry, my love . . .

 *

“But you land-lubbers are such ghosts!

Such ghosts, such ghosts, such ghosts!”

*

VII.

And so, sometimes we sail between two

Worlds; not knowing if we ever meet –

Maybe just a sudden chill – a flash of colour –

A trace of electric paint in the air.

*

Those are the only signals we

Might have now – no longer the

Lapping and laughing of gulls and

Sea

*

But we still love you, Eliza.

And we will bury you with

All your books and candles,

Until God finally rebuilds

The Sea

 

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