Captain Blood Returns
Exile is its own season, reasons raining
invisibly for the traveler:
gentle and true, a sad song’s pining.
Joined in remembering his love to you,
rivers and the wind author caves from the rock,
the patterns of earth and images of heaven
determining the movement of energy through time.
With the strength read in tortoise shells,
leaves, and shapes of air,
the dwellings open into green bamboo,
into cane and the tall reed.
Such lodestars render worlds familiar,
as though light were a fever forever breaking,
and the slow wick these paragraphs allow
were time enough for moons and shadows quartering.
But the sun’s wheels are spoked with days,
and fields of force around the poles
make hostages of sea and continent alike—
the moon-tug of tides manifest in the pulse,
a theorem of salt walking upright on the land.
But observe, you are put to stern choice, to save
in making slave of the creature, or a man of him.
The dust of the road marking limits of his journey,
consider him human, confessed of new scenarios
between the edge of metal and the smooth jade,
or have the stones of Venice more in common with the clouds
than with the sea’s lit foam,
the plasma of ancient stars, or unfamiliar moons
ajar in other doorways?
There were summer evenings then, late evening sunlight
as supple as a boa round a bough.
Motionless at the window bay, a figure in white
stared beyond the empty street,
raising her attention, her watching’s ghost,
slowly and at last to the man across the way,
tending flowers in the early dark,
the singing and the soil beneath the nail:
root labours, as simple as a burning book
or the warm, clear nights
with moonlight and the lovers walking, naming stars
with names that made the night familiar—
the sky pieced over, within and through—
a sudden genealogy of light and shadow,
a leaf-like insistence
larger now than thunder in the wind.
As allegories and the world occasion
(dead stars devouring the definition of the day),
for an idiot of God the times grew fierce and fatal,
and summer snagged like a broken kite
in the bare reaches of November’s trees,
until he could neither go nor stay,
finding advantage neither in living
nor in death, and so departed
naked and starving along the way in winter,
courting cross-roads to find a remedy for love.
Approach is everything,
perceived in fire and the withered tree,
an inferred complicity of signs,
as lives gathered to their fathers
vie mutually with a sky
gathering to an early snow.
Mistake a sea tale
for the blue of any taller story,
and the world assumes an orbit more peculiar,
an aspect more particular
than idioms the observer had intended;
or after undue stress upon the direful
will the world come round to meet him after all?
So much for allegories…
commanding neither loyalty nor love
beyond the subterfuge of pi approximations,
as courage, resource, and invention
demand strokes bolder than liege codes
or handshakes with a mirror.
At Port Royal, between the here and hereafter,
a matter of tenses come and gone,
the fort otherwise to starboard,
while astern and larboard rode, unbroken,
mast lines of the Jamaica squadron,
the privateer lounged on sailcloth and cane,
a quarter-deck improvisation
meant neither for sudden death nor siege
nor any stallion-mare antithesis,
but for fate that is windward with the islands:
to reach up, and with a bell rope
pull down the sky
from the Tortugas to Haiti in the south,
dreaming a dream of guests and prisoners,
a calf-bound copy of Horace’s Odes
neglected in his hands.
When story lines have burned away
and time no longer canyons through the palm,
and by the energy the hand was image of,
we return to sources,
the dark earth flared green with shoots
and ruined orchards exploding in the spring,
we remember the idea of ourselves as motion,
a dream song floating through the haze,
abiding in a question, in a run of luck
or the faith we inhabit, outnumbered,
a way of saying where the weather went to,
where the star swallowing itself whole
went to, as a falcon lifts from a king’s hand:
a jewel at the king’s wrist
like a late entry in the book of hours,
rising to single-out the sky.
Ideas abide, the patterns expressly human:
verb enough to live by,
a fossil fisting into diamonds,
and though the axis of the planet angles as it must,
and galaxies existing only in equations
red-shift into an infinite interrogative,
the lute work of compasses at magnetic north
presents itself as a warm familiar, a nickname
for worlds referred to as our own.
Let the physician heal himself,
and with that laying-on of hands
mellow into medicine as sweet as orris root,
else dream, and have done with plagues
and parliaments, and the crush of sea miles
like cutlass strokes across the bow.
When whores of the old dominion
would sing High Mass for less, taken for a song,
content to describe what phenomena should elicit,
what fee, then, for the physician who heals his own?
In the power of his hand,
the power of warships swung starboard to starboard
within range of grapnels, within a gauze of burning sail
the Arabella listing, stern to bow now balsa for the guns,
Blood’s men boarding the ship of France
as patterns of climax alone allow,
from the deck of the captured vessel
watching his own ship rock and settle,
masts released to water, his own face
anonymous with wounds, and the weeping
as nameless as his own:
he breathes mirrors… the woman at the oriel
burning slowly into view, as a cycle
of winter and wandering burns towards equinox
and heals him home.
In lattices of degree,
distance supplants a king’s commission,
the buccaneer equal to three soldiers of the line,
prevails or perishes combating the aphasia
common to those latitudes.
He speaks his reasons clearly now, neither lost between
the letter and the meaning of places pure and unpeopled,
nor as a reality reduced to forms,
rather, of the world of myth as a turning construct,
a transformation syntax in the literature of recovery.
A sane man and searching, drifting back
from places he remembers he will never know,
consider him human, as plausible as rain
and what he has survived to be: unknown,
and remembering for himself alone the banyan life
whose tallest branch tip is root as well.
For though it was cold, and cold
to the ends of patience, the world
singing from its own soil