14 April 2009

Ciaran Carson

[from Ciaran Carson's First Language, Wake Forest, 1994]

Drunk Boat

After Rimbaud, Le Bateau Ivre

As I glided down the lazy Meuse, I felt my punters had gone
     AWOL --
In fact, Arapahoes had captured them for target practice,
     nailing them to stakes. Oh hell,

I didn't give a damn. I didn't want a crew, nor loads of Belgium
     wheat, nor English cotton.
When the whoops and hollers died away, their jobs were well

Through the tug and zip of tides, more brain-deaf than an
     embryo, I bobbled;
Peninsulas, unmoored and islanded, were envious of my

Storms presided at my maritime awakening. Like a cork I
     waltzed across the waves,
Which some call sailors' graveyards; but I despised their
     far-off, lighted enclaves.

As children think sour apples to be sweet, so the green sap
     swamped the planks
And washed away the rotgut and the puke, the rudder and the

I've been immersed, since then, in Sea Poetry, anthologized by
As through the greenish Milky Way a corpse drifts down-
     wards, clutching a corrupted spar;

When suddenly, those sapphire blues are purpled by Love's
     rusty red. No lyric
Alcohol, no Harp, can combat it, this slowly-pulsing, twilit

I've known lightning, spouts, and undertows, maelstrom
     evenings that merge into Aurora's
Blossoming of doves. I've seen the Real Thing; others only get
     its aura.

I've seen the sun's demise, where seas unroll like violet,
Venetian blinds; dim spotlight, slatted by the backstage work
     of Ancient Greeks.

I dreamed the green, snow-dazzled night had risen up to kiss
     the seas'
Blue-yellow gaze, the million plankton eyes of phosphor-
     escent argosies.

I followed then, for many months, the mad-cow waves of the
Oblivious to the Gospel of how Jesus calmed the waters,
     walking on his tippy-toes.

I bumped, you know, into the Floridas, incredible with
And manatees, which panther-men had reined with rainbows
     and with Special Powers.

I saw a whole Leviathan rot slowly in the seething marsh, till
     it became
All grot and whalebone. Blind cataracts lurched into
     oubliettes, and were becalmed.

Glaciers and argent seas, pearly waves and firecoal skies! A
     tangled serpent-cordage
Hauled up from the Gulf, all black-perfumed and slabbered
     with a monster's verbiage!

I would have liked the children to have seen them: goldfish,
     singing-fish, John Dorys --
My unanchored ones, I'm cradled by the tidal flowers and
     lifted near to Paradise.

Sometimes, fed-up with the Poles and Zones, the sea would
     give a briny sob and ease
Off me; show me, then, her vented shadow-flowers, and I'd be
     like a woman on her knees. . . .

Peninsular, I juggled on my decks with mocking-birds and
And rambled on, until my frail lines caught another upside-
     down, a drowned Australian.

Now see me, snarled-up in the reefs of bladder-wrack, or
     thrown by the waterspout like craps
Into the birdless Aether, where Royal Navy men would slag
     my sea-drunk corpse --

Smoking, languorous in foggy violet, I breathed a fireglow
     patch into
The sky, whose azure trails of snot are snaffled by some Poets
     as an entree --

Electromagnets, hoof-shaped and dynamic, drove the
     Nautilus. Black hippocampuses
Escorted it, while heat-waves drummed and blattered on the
     July campuses.

Me, I shivered: fifty leagues away, I heard the bumbling
     Behemoths and Scarabs;
Spider spinning in the emerald, I've drifted off the ancient
     parapets of Europe!

Sidereal archipelagoes I saw! Island skies, who madly
     welcomed the explorer;
O million starry birds, are these the endless nights you dream
     of for the Future?

I've whinged enough. Every dawn is desperate, ever bitter
     sun. The moon's atrocious.
Let the keel split now, let me go down! For I am bloated, and
     the boat is stotious.

Had I some European water, it would be that cold, black
Where a child once launched a paper boat -- frail butterfly --
     into the dusk; and huddled

There, I am no more. O waves, you've bathed and cradled me
     and shaped
Me. I'll gaze no more at Blue Ensigns, nor merchantmen, nor
     the drawn blinds of prison-ships.

First Language: Poems

No comments:

Post a Comment