Saturday, March 12, 2016

The One-Legged Pilot





The One-Legged Pilot





When the trip begins the shore
is decorated with shipwrecked sunspots,
round mirrors of messaged bottles
I save from their cold blue exile,
and littered with rags of the rescued
I've replaced with nothing 
but the silken silver whisper
of my hair on salt-splotched skin.

The sirens call us, shrieking,
arabesque on their wayward rocks,
to sing us the torment of flesh,
of which there was never enough;
They curse
each plank we walk, and
even the death below

so nothing can really save us,
yet the peg-leg pilot 
steers us onward. The beach rears up at last; 
dry sand drinks our tears

while the sweet hormonal sea,
its tidal pulsing
the sirens' operatic hypnotic, even the grace
of salvage itself
abandons ships and sailors and
I am what washes up
alone on an arctic rim, hollow 
as a rind of frozen shell.
But the demon in the song is always full

and he is true still.
He's watched at the drydock of my bed
as decades rolled themselves up
like razor wire, tangled and untouchable
drawing blood at the slightest move.
He's seen the candle lit
and blown out
lit
and blown out
til the stump is smaller
and flatter
than even the look in your eyes.

A faithful sea-dog, my demon pilot
strong on a single leg, old but hot as pitch
his ivory teeth bigger, brighter--
a white flash in the liquid night
that only shows when he smiles.


~March 2016












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Note: This poem has been edited since the reading



If you'd like to hear the poem clumsily read by the author, click below:











The Siren, and
Ulysses and the Sirens(Detail), by John William Waterhouse.
Public domain



23 comments:

  1. So much to love in this ... what a marvelous use of mythology and work into this descriptions of temptations, and how we tamper with them.. tying ourselves and stoically never giving in... maybe we have a lot to thank the pilot, or he should be damned for our sufferings... (is that a grin or a smile really).

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  2. Riches everywhere one reads here Hedge, a deep net brimming with a lifetime's catch ... an ear, perhaps, long at sea on a dangerous thrilling song. Odysseus had his sailors fill their ears with wax so they would not be lured off ship's deck into drowning embrace: but what fun would that really be, and besides, what wax is thick enough to erase a demon's song? The pilot here is a fun confabulation of Ahab and Phallos, master of the barbs, with his little mushroom cap and dolorous plunging stare -- outliving sexuality, revealing that he sang that song to just lure us into a bigger, more awesome night music--the poem. \Whaddawegonna do with this internal bugalooer? but dance ... So many fine deeps and caverns in this, Hedge, your hiatus magnified something.

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    1. Thank you, B--I do think taking time off helps clarify the brain, and really this time I had no choice, as I was in no condition to think or even read, let alone write. And in that time of dust and fallow, a lot washes away, and yes, some things become magnified, like monoliths after a flood. And also, age--there's very little of youth left now as I approach the tombstone decade milestones where each may be the last. The gape of the big 7-Oh is a lot different than looking down the throat of 40. ;_)

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  3. Hi Joy--a super visual poem, very vivid, tangible and audible too--the details you choose are unique and telling, and have both a metaphoric and naturalistic weight, which makes them particularly strong--(I found the first stanza particularly compelling in this regard, the salt-splotched skin, the blue message bottles as mirrors), and also I loved the ambiguity of lack of punctuation in first line--

    Loved the sirens and their waywards rocks and songs as well as the peg-legged pilot--I kept hearing little snatches of Prufrock there, with the sirens somehow--maybe that feeling of passed-by-ness and not--the candle stump image really apt and cool as well--all good and strong poem-- close is really cool as well--liquid night is so apt for the sea storm, and the flash of white of ivory teeth- some bit of whale reversal there--ha? Ahab swallowing the great white--that is, I think what happens as drives/obsessions become some other kind of part of us. anyway--wonderful--I don't know if hiatus magnified something as you are always pretty good, I think. k.

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    1. Fine. Your absence magnified our need of finding you here at it again.

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    2. Haven't you heard that 70 is the new orange, um, brown, um--what is that color?

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  4. wowzers. Quite a lot of good stuff going on here. Intelligent and wistful. Aged and wise.

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  5. Pssshh...hardly clumsy! I always love how you give a fresh spin on mythological themes.

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    1. Thanks Rommy-- but you are a thousand times the reader I am.

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  6. The whole thing is an epic tale.....but I love this line the best: "round mirrors of messaged bottles
    I save from their cold blue exile"--such a unique way to phrase it :-)

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  7. Whhosh! Sirens and harpies... What is not to love in every salt-drenched line.

    I am what washes up
    alone on an arctic rim, hollow
    as a rind of frozen shell.
    But the demon in the song is always full

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Kerry. A rare spontaneous write, so went to my favorite bag of tropes. ;_)

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  8. I've always told you how much I adore the way your mind dances with mythology and poetry--which you have a gift to portray as a single many-headed and many-hearted organism.

    These lines are coated with a sense of the unavoidable. Even if unwanted, they would come out of the pen as needed to be birthed. I love the bright loudness of the poem's tone and imagery. There is pain and darkness and ugliness and death, but only going through all of it (walking the plank) seems to show the way towards any light.

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    1. Thanks Magaly--yes, and there's love in here somewhere too, honest, but not as clearly as I would wish.

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  9. Well first of all, as you observed, what are the odds that we would both--sight unseen--write about sirens and Ulysses? Maybe not as high as one might think, as we do seem to roll along many of the same tracks, in one sense or another. I think that's cool.

    As for this poem, there are so many striking lines in it: the decades like razor wire, the arctic rim, et al, and of course the incubus-like peglegged pilot. I can feel the spray, the chill, the faint whiff of some tropical isle a million miles away, and of course, doom dead ahead. And yet, "sail on sail on sailor." This is a pleasure to read.

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    1. Thanks BFF--you quote my own favorite lines--amazing coincidence. ;_)

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  10. so I should be in bed, but I can't, so I won't (or as the rhyme goes...)

    the penultimate verse is the siren, for me, that would lead me grinning foolish and wild to drink Poseidon's salt tears. yet somehow, in the close, there remains that heat - embered, perhaps, but no less a fury and spark than what our Titan graced us with before the gods shackled him for the eagle's snack.

    love has strong teeth, doesn't s/he? ~

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  11. I think those of us who create are always hearing a siren's call. We travel the sea in our minds trying to paint a shore we can never reach. The visual seascape you write speaks to the poet sailor in me.



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  12. Love this oceanic love...your descriptions and reading are rich, Hedge. :)

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  13. They curse each plank we walk, and
    even the death below
    so nothing can really save us,
    yet the peg-leg pilot
    steers us onward.

    It literally conjures pictures of the unwanted being sent over the plank but still some others are saved by a one-legged who could have suffered himself. It's the way of the world that some are shoved into oblivion while others have the good fortune to live on through miracles. Thoughtful take Joy!

    Hank

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'Poetry is an echo asking a shadow to dance' ~Carl Sandburg