Like men of old of sail, becalmed, though not
by lack of wind, we idle, ill at ease.
I think of those who watched us sail from home; they would
not think such change could come about.
We were provisioned well; the boat was sound; the crew
beyond reproach, but what we surely knew would see
us through was this: a man whose faith
had bred our own, and who had led
a life of exploration on these seas
and penned on careful charts each channel, shore and sound
and every place where foolish man might run aground,
this old man of the sea, in love (and maybe envy)
of our youth and spirit, blessed us with his patronage.
His maps and notes he had no further use for:
they were ours.
Long hours we sat into the night, we
and the old man, and he told
of journeys round the good land –
hidden always, so he said, in such thick mists
and buffeted by storms,
that he had never set a foot upon its sand.
Nor would he now.
What hope remained, he would transfer to us.
Our journey would not fail.
In this perhaps we erred: we made
one passing nod to science. We installed
(to reinforce our faith in ancient learning – so
we said) a radar set, and watched its one eye
glare like Satan’s at us on the bridge. We learnt
to read (as best we could) its hieroglyphs, its shadows,
points of light, which painted for us on its dark screen
landscapes, barely seen
in faint and unfamiliar images.
Yet still we sailed, our expectations high,
into a world of mists devoid of any shape we knew.
Only in Satan’s eye were patterns that made sense
– but untrained eyes beholding sense (or seeming to)
need help from what they know. We sought
to verify the patterns, match
impressions with the charts, but all the while
in Satan’s eye, it seemed the maps had lied:
There was no way to reconcile the two. We tried,
and trying, became prey
to every shift of wind and tide. Irresolution
had become the skipper of our crew.
And so the great decision;
how to tell the crew? The land,
the object of the quest, eluded us.
The good did not exist. The best,
we’d found on board, in easy friendships.
Who could now explain that what had made this so
was less than true, and take the rich soil of the life they’d grown
or telling them, part company from the best we’d known –
and thereby be the cause of that old seaman’s loss of pride?
Faith for us now, if it can be, must be
not in good causes, lives or better lands,
but in those things that live and make their presence felt
in mist and fog and storm, where lack of definition
baffles indecisive man, where man
and in meeting it, finds form.
Submitted by … Dave King
This poem was submitted to and published on a previous website of mine – now defunct. Some of my readers may remember that David Alexander King was my own inspiration to start blogging, just 4 months ago. He was both a poet and an artist and became a prolific blogger in the time before he died 3 years ago. Please do take a look at my entries regarding Dave in my very first 2 blogs, which can be found at . . .
David Alexander King and The Eagle & The Child