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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

NOW VOYAGER, A Poem in Two Parts, II

Now Voyager,

A Poem in Two Parts, II


'Today', the specter says,
‘Before I appear in vision to you,
A fierce fit seized my brain, and I took my sword
And smashed it mightily against this stone
Which our men had trundled from the moraine,
A monument on whose face
Inscribed characters memorialize my life.’

Wordlessly he hands me a leather roll to unfurl.
It is a runic manuscript and though
The writing was olden, Svenska, I could read it!

'My Darling Brunet,’ the salutation goes,

'I am your countryman, a remote ancestor,
I tell you true, and whether you believe me or not,
Or how you choose to act,
The matter rests entirely with you.
Nonetheless I urge you. Harken!

‘Death has deprived me of ability to speak,
The poet’s verse, the dream
It communicates to you, is channel,
The vehicle this ghost employs,
Without this medium no correspondence would exist.

‘You have heard of the hurried activity that
Animates the point of embarkation,
Note anticipation of mere material success,
It dwarfs so much noble human endeavor.
The business these ships portend had once been mine.

‘The business the ships portend had been mine.

‘And now voyager, you, like we before you,
Pursue the world to bring it to your feet,
You seek new riches and hope
To bring them home to dazzle compatriots.

‘Yet, whatever the greatness now awaits you,
Yours can not compare to ours, to our accomplishment.

‘Forgive the invidious note. Still mull it over,
Allow me this moment. Imagine it!

‘The joy! We sat well in order
And smote the sounding furrows,
And sailed into the sunrise
We headed toward the baths of the morning stars.

‘And when we landed, we crossed a vast,
Unnamed landmass between Europe and Asia,
Harnessed captives to forge the rivers,
Fought numberless skirmishes,
We used native allies to establish posts for trade.

‘And while we traveled we beseech Odin,

‘Oh Father! Oh Father of Fathers! Oh Allfather!
Soak us in the blood of enemies, and let its
Stenches increase our fury. Help us to violence!
Oh Great God guide us to kill any whom defy us.

‘The greater bloody smell filled our nostrils,
The more the madness drove us to fight and conquer.

‘And when we lit funeral pyres,
Made from the ships of our current travel,
And burned the bodies of our fallen comrades
Into the heaven that awaits the warrior,
Our hair became matted thick,
We were crowned with the ash of the departed.
In the smoke from those fires
We breathed in the spirits of heroic conquest.

‘We were men of prayer and momentous belief,
Utterly we turned our will and
We turned our lives over to care of Father.

‘And I ask, again, how yours may compare to ours,
How may yours compare to our conquest of the East.

‘We founded Kiev, established the thrones
That became the Royal house of a great nation.

‘All the way from the soil of Stora Alvaret,
We crossed the Bosphorus,
And battled foes on the plains outside Byzantium,
Our work was in the employ of oriental Emperors.

‘We had vanquished the expanse of land
We ruled from Baltic to Black Sea.

‘And when we returned to homeland shores
We had ships filled with slaves and honey.
We brought woman companions North,
Awesome beauties of the East were ours.
We stole the horses of the Hungarians and the Czechs.

Our hulls bore bags upon bags of gold and silver coin,
And were heaped with all variety of fruit,
Our ships returned laden with pelts of fur for our winters.

We had returned home rich beyond measure.

‘Now I am but a shade, truly ghost of former self.
No one need tell me how great the events
How the gravestone script commemorates the
Immortality of your ancestors’ deeds and mine.

‘Yet nothing matches the warmth, the memory,
My dear wife’s body lay in bed, her sleeping next to me.

‘Once, and now so many years ago,
I happened upon my wife while she lifted
Our son to seat him on the front plank
Of an oxcart parked in the front of our home.

‘I must convey that there be
More lasting memory and real worth for me,
In the way dappled sunlight
Had illuminated my son's head,
Than is upon all the runes in the homeland today.

‘Our paths emerge but for a while
Then close forever within a dream.

‘Time cuts us a length so short only the moment
May be savored, all else’s vanity,
And once we recognize the transitory,
The fleetingness of all we savor,
We may seize the instance and know treasure.

‘I am a shade. My victories mean nothing.

‘Were I only able to spend
An hour more in bed with my beloved,
If I could only bear again my living witness
To sun’s light across tree tops at height of day.

‘If only it possible to play, to tumble,
To crawl along with my toddler son,
Were we to have opportunity for knees and hands
Upon this earth once more.

‘Goodbye! Sweet woman, Goodbye!

‘Farewell! Farewell! Remember me!’

He vanishes. The dreamscape turns green.

And the color now before me matches the color,
The verdant, the summer green of those
Preserves of forest that stretch
For mile upon mile along the River Desplaines
The green that equals the color, the wood,
The forest which circles the cemetery stone,
The burial ground of the Chippewa Chief
Whose bravery saved the pale skins at Fort Dearborn.

The green is the color of the burial plot,
The Indian Burial Ground where I played in my youth.

And out from this world of green voices declare,

‘Go slowly, my lovely moon, go slowly.

‘Time chases upon our heels,
Before long it quickens its pace to furious gallop.
All earthly stores succumb to this onslaught.
In a wisp, like the language of our monuments,
We cease, and we are remembered no more.’

And over and against this green
A spectral chorus appears,
And from amongst the ensemble,
A single ghost figure steps to the fore, and says,

‘I am here to repeat ancient wisdom,
What do we care what the joyless say?
They should get lost, all of them!
Once our tiny, brief light is pinched out,
There be no night, like that everlasting night,
When earth, it replaces heaven.

‘So let’s kiss, and let’s kiss again.
Let’s kiss a thousand times, and, then,
Let’s do it all over again, those kisses.

‘How many? How many? How many?
How many, you say?

‘Let’s not number our kisses.
There are people with evil eyes,
Workers of black magic,
Who would wish to bewitch us.

‘They should not know how many.’

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