Tidal flats near Chincoteague, off Wallops Light,
sometimes harbor wrecks of Spanish treasure fleets
shifting over centuries in the soft sea-bed nearby.
Im told crews sleep a wretched sleep, like that
of men too full of evening meat, or those condemned
by bloated consciences to virulent lost dreams.
Sometimes the moonlight strikes the waters furrowed
like searchers beams and probes the cradling mass.
Sometimes, like layers of mica, silver-black, the tensile sea
resists all light and heaves it at the land, or back
into its source as if preferring to remain
Deaths secret agent or the twin of night.
Wrecks must hold promises of more than storied gold:
An eye of emerald, or oysters ivory tears, or silver
are too encrusted with usurious desire to explain
the tidal pull of treasure on enflamed imaginations.
Sunk in wild savannas of the sea, the riotous history
of our souls seems to call to us to lure our prescient urge
to cease to be. Is there not more incentive than the black
tooth of an ancestral planking nail that might betray
some hulls hidden by centuries, to the trained eye?
Is there not more than peacock pluck that drives us to dive,
packed in knuckled tires of pressure, down, down,
under this deceptive canopy of flooded graves?
Is it the stunned survivor in each one of us, epigone
of our defeated childhood fears, expecting to return,
delivered from our threadbare poverty, with ingot hives
or massive chests crammed full of jeweled Aztec blood?
Or is only the flawed hope that sifting through the vestiges
of sunken history, well find more tangled, seminal
Returned, we preen as though the masters of the beach
and flashbulb air, and to some brief degree, warily astride
untamed seas; or, because by uncovering to journal praise
the wreckages of time, we finally prove, if only to
that death must give up what it cannot hold, like phallic
or other talismans of feathered gold, worried by cunning
long since bleached, that death could keep, into memorials
as invulnerable to alluvial decay as serial hurricanes.
If only we could find among the barnacled doubloons
and silt-primed cannons, a just trace of the souls rage
and hearts calm needed to thread azimuths of unexpected
storms through needle eyes, to reach a tallymans shrewd
on binding shores, devised for dying old. Instead we find
only a few
worn signs that prove, or seem to prove, that the bland seas
and blank skies, that eased those avaricious galleons by some
unwary helmsmans pride, until surprise sucked them
vortices of doom, onto the Atlantics shelves off
were never only covetous, only malevolent, or ever lied.
If you've any comments on
this poem, Oswald LeWinter would be pleased to hear from you.