Like hail they fell,
in numbers uncountable,
leaving no one left to wail but me,
Godless upon an iron sea.
After the storm I was cut adrift,
me a mid-shipman,
ten days out to sea,
and never a sight of land for me,
nor woman’s touch,
but her dark eyes
swam before me all the way
to the whirlpool at the end of days
where under a glowering sky,
I died the death of gulls.
This sea-tale I recount,
by way of settlement
to the God that has deserted me
this seventeenth day of May,
Seventeen hundred and fifty three.
Now the Devil take me.
2. The Last Island
The storm levelled the house
and I raised sail;
made for the last island of all.
Seven days have now passed,
my boat lies broken on the beach
and I lay dying of love.
In my own blood I write this scrawl
and face my God alone:
and my unmaker,
Lord of the Last Island.
3. The Voyage Out
On the voyage out, we were becalmed
for seven days and nights,
one for each decade of an old soak’s life.
Untouched by either current or breeze,
by degrees, I grew mad
so that when the wind did whisper to me,
it was in sea dreams I could not read;
strange alphabet, strange tongue,
not known to me, or anyone,
hieroglyphs on the pavements of a seaside town,
out of season all year round.
And there I was delayed,
incanting, have remained,
casting back these stones into the sea,
words formed in extremity,
holding back the one thing I could read:
“Oh why hast Thou forsaken me?”