a landlubber
two mikes2-cc

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Roy BryanA landlubber’s ballade, shoddily penned, April 12, 2024 read by the author Roy Bryan

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Roy BryanA landlubber’s ballade, shoddily penned, April 12, 2024 read by the author Roy Bryan

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Roy BryanA landlubber’s ballade, shoddily penned, April 12, 2024 read by the author Roy Bryan

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Roy BryanA landlubber’s ballade, shoddily penned, April 12, 2024 read by the author Roy Bryan

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Roy BryanA landlubber’s ballade, shoddily penned, April 12, 2024 read by the author Roy Bryan

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Roy BryanA landlubber’s ballade, shoddily penned, April 12, 2024 read by the author Roy Bryan

A landlubber’s ballade, shoddily penned
April 12, 2024

Looking away is often hard.
The most pristine ocean shore I have found—
it’s restless and shifting dunes
highlighted in my prosaic and hackneyed travelogue—
flows through a narrowing neck
of imperfect glass—an artisanal artifact—
a window in time
hand blown and formed
into its distinctive and transient movie star shape—
a timeless sand clock I hold carefully
regressing as I age into a youthful
and seriously reluctant apprentice,
a perpetual novice tutored by a grizzled sea captain—
and imposing figure, his eyes glittering,
hands shaking from copious rations of rum—
focusing, concentrating, measuring
with impatience—feeling lost and unwilling to wait
until tomorrow noon
to use his ancient brass astrolabe—
I hear him mumble quietly to himself
that the nearby and treacherous star
we circumnavigate yearly
will willfully use the worsening weather
to hide itself in lowering clouds—
if this anxious foreboding is a strength,
the displeasure may also be a shortcoming
with what was once so much easier.
It should be, he knows,
a simple task
to mark the space between the vague horizon
and the dim and trembling Polaris.
His frustration infects the emotional undercurrents
and I cannot look away
as heavy waves of imagination rise
to point out the northern star
and fall with foamy emphasis.
His recent and emphatic pronouncement
that speed is equal to the distance
divided by time
changed my perspective—
or rather, it created a dramatic shift
until I floundered at an understanding
of an astrological concept
being narrated by tonight’s murky sky, an allegory
that momentarily seemed black-and-white—
a vivid flash of words against a dark backdrop
to mark the space between the vague horizon
and the dim and trembling Polaris.
A mediocre student is easy to expose
and maybe he sees his own reflection
as I sink into unfathomable depths.
It does not matter that I force myself
to nod obligingly to hide my self doubt.
I could see unblinking eyes hold firm
and felt my insincere gesture unravel silently
to mark the space between the vague horizon
and the dim and trembling Polaris.
On a lower deck, a weathered old salt
called out that another knot had played out
in the vessel’s wake—
and so, as was my entrusted task,
I entered the correct poem into the log book
and then nervously anticipated
turning the half-hour timepiece
to mark the space between the vague horizon
and the dim and trembling Polaris.
Maybe this ship’s master,
who refuses to look away from my confusion,
should tell me again
that clutching one’s own span of attention
is the key to success.
Focus, focus young man,
focus on the grains gathered together
and flowing into a small waterfall—watch
it roar and cascade
while it gathers strength. It tumbles wildly
towards another cold night—barreling downstream
just as it did yesterday,
and the year before—
pushing and dropping each particle
to accumulate imperceptibly, to mound
into a perfect sculpted hill rising
to mark the space between the vague horizon
and the dim and trembling Polaris.
This constant upside down movement
my hand has memorized
must be an an addiction, a compulsion to find
the beginnings and endings,
to discover once more how eternal ideas
are thawed out like a glacier and find a path
towards the enduring ocean—
unresolved mysteries cresting and stretching out
from this secure and sheltered cove.
Others swear they know
the intervals gauged for this purpose,
but I remain mystified as frigid winds
rush off the rising waves and push
salt spray and fine particles
into my vision.
My eyes sting because I cannot look away
as a force in the universe is driven—
its momentum lodging itself inside my skull.
I can feel it drop with my confidence
into the deepest oceanic trench
to mark the space between the vague horizon
and the dim and trembling Polaris.

Looking away is hard
as night takes a greater hold around me
and even the moon’s reflection disappears
defining the second it is too dark to see.
A rocky shore continues to exist
imprinted in the mind
but hides its clandestine life with better skill—
even I know the Red-breasted Merganser
should not actually be here at this time of year
as it clearly rides the large swells
I can overhear with greater clarity.
I unconsciously reach out again and again
and twist my wrists ritualistically
and rock this obsolete clock
over and over again and again
to mark the space between the vague horizon
and the dim and trembling Polaris.

I am not surprised there is a vulture drifting
that fades into the form of an Albatross—
a odd mirage with its sudden wingspan
stretching twelve feet across
to meander in and out of the improvised clouds.
Its flight soars even though
I cannot find the medieval cloth maker dyeing
the strong invisible currents
into a colorful weave
and an understandable path.
Somewhere, hidden in the invisible fog
that I begin to breathe in,
an uncharitable map maker swears
with words I ought not repeat,
at the gaps in the stories he has collected.
These chasms of ignorance inspire, or is it that it forces
him to invent a new world
to mark the space between the vague horizon
and the dim and trembling Polaris..
It is a distraction he embellishes
as he decorates his truths
by drawing sea monsters—strange creatures
that rise to the surface
and breathe in his exotic winds—
and, of course, he must add waves
and jagged rock shoals everywhere
to mark the space between the vague horizon
and the dim and trembling Polaris.
It is hard to look away
because there is too much knowledge missing here.
This ship I was coaxed to board— or was it dragooned
and forcibly carried up the sagging plank—
will soon be swallowed whole,
and I need to add a stanza, a constant reminder
to soften the surprise,
a catchy refrain introducing
the final punctuation of ideas
before we lose the thin thread we have here.
It should be simple and clear,
an obvious, vigorous, and poetic envoi
to remind us that looking away
is as hard now as it ever was,
and that the poet, every step of the way,
has been trying to bottle up
the unwelcome message
he tossed overboard long ago
to mark the space between the vague horizon
and the dim and trembling Polaris.