UNDER THE WORLD
In his dusty olive grove, overlooking his son’s grave in
The shadowy depths below, stood an early fisherman,
Drying the dead-weighted nets of an aimlessly drifting night.
From deep in the valley hoarse roosters crowed the light higher
And higher, while nearer to the path leading down to the sea
Cicadas slit the net of silence surrounding the house,
Passed down from father to son, where his wife lay fast asleep and
Dreamed of her husband, the time-blind fisherman, who picked up
A hammer (the same one, he knew, his son had once used to fix
The derelict dovecote) and continued building his boat.
She spurred him on from the depths of her rudderless desires,
Tugging and jerking at the sunken anchor of her sleep.
With death at his back the feverish fisherman worked himself
Into a sweat, oh pounding heart, and banished all thought of
Two white legs imprisoned in a pair of black fishnet stockings.
Nail after nail was driven into stem, stern, time and tears,
Until they mingled and were washed into the sea of his son
In the depths below, a rising sea, in which his island
Sailed like a green barnacle-clad ship, with hundreds of shrieking
Seagulls in its wake, through storm-tossed centuries and broken
Mountains, in water stretching from heaven to earth in the clouds.
And as she watched his face she could see the earth’s womb open
Up with a convulsive shudder, which happened every time his
Eyes sailed deep into her soul and he rammed her delicate
Hull, just as he was doing now; and he turned to her, lay down
His hammer, whispered a soft farewell to the dovecote and
Went back to his work, staring at the teeth of his glinting saw,
And since its sharp edge produced a smile in him, she also
Saw his teeth and then in the steely blue of his eyes the sea,
So that all her longing was laid bare in its reflection.
And the shadow of the sculpted olive trees ran through her dream
Like green oil slithering voluptuously down the curves
Of the trunks, only to run out again on the other side
With the long-legged leap of a sea cat or sea serpent.
Then the powerful strokes of the singing saw slipped inside her
Panting breath, climbing up on the ochre coast of her flesh,
While the steamy sweat of the fisherman streamed into his boat,
Into the sea and down her face, turning it to silver.
Obedient to the hammer blows filling the blood-stained boat,
To the oar-hard muscles struggling against a heaving chest:
The heart. Surrendered to the inexorable will of time,
Which will awaken in either the fullness of mercy
Or the confining emptiness of vengeance, clutching onto
That which knows no mercy: the body. Just then – as the cruel
Nails, curved like horns, frantically clawed their way to drier heights,
To the refuge of the mountain goat, the mythical ark
In the eternal snow, up towards the piercing stab of the sun
And the hell-lit heavens – magma erupted from the earth.
The sea trembled, swelling the waves, and the yellow bowsprits, booms,
Gaffs and masts thrashed against each other, growing entangled
In the black network of cables and halyards, ropes and stays, lines
Swinging back and forth in the lurid light of an orange sky.
A school of silver saber-shaped fish fled from the curving spine
Of the inky blue sea, their headless bodies hurriedly
Darting, two by two, through the water in a shiver of fright.
And while soot and ashes drifted down from twilight-tinged clouds,
The arching sea savagely leapt at the foot of the mountains
And rolling hills, where the dead lay quaking in their coffins.
The frothing mouths of the waves recoiled for just one moment from
The cross with the color photograph of a skinny boy
In a light-red sport shirt lifting a barbell over his head
In the shadowy depths below, before the hills listed
And sank. Then, from the sinking tops of the olive trees there came
The white skeletal frame of a fishing boat, with an oar
Shaped like a hammer, a billowing pair of blue overalls,
Without their fisherman, and a woman of salt staring
Dazedly in the dense light to where an island used to be.
High in the sky – the head of a dead polar bear – the moon.