Saturday, October 14, 2006

Horse Latitudes

Though it is true that high and wide above these ships
that smell of salt and earthy damp and slight dry-rot,
eagles soar and mate while sea gulls sail and call
as if to tell some yet-unfathomed fate,

though through the tangled rope and cloth
a feather falls and something true aloft turns false below,
here where this craft, becalmed and yet deranged,
lets drowning horses churn the glassy sea to froth,

though in the seascape's mist my dreams completely shift
and my careening mind storms back to land to find
I can but shake my lifted fist
against the pounding of the waves...

Still, in that sinking moment, comes an
unexpected rise, a flight as full
and swift and bright as seabirds' glinting vanes
of gold and gray and white. Now, once again,

I find my heart attendant to your sorrow
and for a moment unentailed by gathered furls,
cloud-white and high and wide yet windless sails,
I still have eyes to see you as before.

Now though adrift I stand ashore and view
old visions drawn out anew in this reflecting glass.
Between those always-closed old wooden blinds you opened our first
date, the small compulsions of my house and heartbreak gravitate--

stale scents of nicotine and ash, black coffee rings
and cans of Coke, pale sugar ants and salty crumbs--
slight things, I guess, largely unseen, yet how they marred
and mar the white wood shelf above my hearth.

Now in memory or in fact I stand still,
too close again, before the mirror hung above
this cold white mantle and heart's dark fire--face to face,
the same as then, as when you said I'd gone too far,

as when you pled that you would suffocate
if I kept pressing my demands
or that we might explode if I could not just love you
and not hate your husband's plain bright wedding band.

And for a while, that worked. Still, all my heart protests
that what it is I love in you
I wish to plainly see, and wish to fold
all fantasies complex into a simple scheme.

If with insistent words
or with a brave compassion
I could dare this growing mist
which makes me your displeasure,

if from my bold and quelling hateful stare
you could tell that
part of me would gladly die
to keep your heart my treasure,

if I could clutch
hell's phantoms by their throats,
make them dance
and cease to prance and gloat,

if all the things I love to say came true--how one
can love and not possess, for one--but, no, not me.
Confess: grim truth is what is true;
the rest is jagged jest, on land or out at sea...

For truth or dare, that seabird breeze could not become
a gossamer of warm air uplifting me with ease.
No flight enlivens or relieves this flagging flesh I bear,
not till the final horse's plight and the last feather's fall.

Still, though I sank and swam, and swim and sink here yet,
and though so brief (those bright reliefs!)
I think myself a better man that you and some
fair few have loved me so, absurd and errant as I am.

So, yes, it's me you see out there,
a sailor all at sea, one of those
jerry-built, jimmied, jangled lives astray,
as aimless as jetsam at ebb tide,

a muddled mariner amidships who strives
to soar, yet always goes over the side,
a churning hoof, a lifted fist,
that strains against and to the waves

till in the frothing sea
I sink and swim no more
and drown.


15th draft: 07/28/04
©1976 Ronald C. Southern

Horse Latitudes: Plural noun. Either of two belts of latitudes located over the oceans at about 30° to 35° north and south, having high barometric pressure, calms, and light, changeable winds. Etymology: Possibly from Spanish golfo de las yeguas, mares' sea. Reports that horses often needed to be thrown overboard, to lighten the load when no wind was present, in order to move the vessels on the water may be apocryphal.

1 comment:

  1. I lost what very few comments that I had here. Switched services. Hope I someday get some more comments.


Abandon hope, all ye who enter here! (At least put on your socks and pants.)