Image © Sophie Davidson
Never More, Sailor
after Walter de la Mare and Tristan Corbière
So this mariner, whether a sailor,
captain, indeed whoever he may be,
is dead below the wind-ridden
Come! so many have died mid-labour
with their boots on, for all the world
vividly alive, now under the weight
of salted blankets, gale-hurled.
A squall . . . the wind-shock
feels like death, the sails stir –
then suddenly the air is quiet,
and the waves yet quieter.
No graveyard rats for them, or land:
sharks are the only ones to come.
A sailor’s soul, though soaked and small,
breathes with the billows of its liquid home.
Look out to sea –
the swell undulates just like the care-
free belly of a lover, free as once
the sailors were.
Now, in the soundfulness
of the deep, let these sea-deafened
fellows jettison all distress
of storms, all their ever-
wild weather. Down in the deep
let the whales’ song
lull their sleep.
The Scallop Diver
So, could you tell me about this tattoo?
– I had to mark the point when I was through.
I earned my living as a scallop diver,
and this is my friend, an old-school diver,
who started out wearing traditional gear.
It’s my love of the sea. This mermaid here –
she got the face just right – is kissing him.
Scallops are for journeys, sink or swim.
– This one? – The swallow is for coming home.
I piloted my boat through raging foam –
the only hurricane in the Atlantic.
There was no wind or light between the waves.
That’s how quiet it was between the waves.
Back on land, I got inked up – ecstatic.
– An Tobar.
The hurricane? – I sailed back from New York,
an old crew at my side – an alcoholic,
a diabetic pensioner. Well, we knew
the hurricane was tearing its way through
Caribbean seas. If you want to clear
that kind of hurricane you have to steer
your boat to coldest waters. It was rough.
I sailed to Nova Scotia, further north,
hoping we could get away. It caught us.
We lashed the wheel to windward. Had to trust
the craft would make it up and down the swell.
Some four days passed. – The hurricane was through?
– High seas of forty foot, and sky sharp blue.
We surfed the boat as if it were a shell.