Tuesday Poem: “A Small Reprieve from Miseries Adored” by Zireaux

cover1So what was she like, the island I’d found,
set sail for, settled, and to my chagrin,
now shared? (A stowaway was in
my boat, now wrecked).

                                               Let’s look around:

A trifling thing of small physique,
she was, at highest tide, just nine
and ninety meters up her spine,
from rugged southwest tail to peak
of pointed, northward-jutting ear.
(Once mapped, her outline would appear
distinctly leporine). No trees
or plants, no single leaf to gauge
the shifting mood above the seas,
as if the weather’s bouts of rage
were love’s entreaties spoken to
a cold, ill-tempered maiden who,
afraid her heart might grow too warm,
is hardened by another’s storm.

She poured no drink for me, no water
or fruit-juice, no milky liquids stored
in coconuts or bottle gourds;
No wild boars for me to slaughter,
turtles to turn or fish harpoon
in tepid, limpid blue lagoons.
No cave to shelter in, no wood
to burn for warmth (how cold it got
out there!). Her razor surface could
make ribbons of your feet. One spot
around her midriff did contain
some sand, but much of it thick-grained
– and mixed with shells – and even through

my clothes, a cotton pair of socks,
or through the flooring of my tent
the rocks and shells would leave their dents
upon my flesh, a sort of pox
which every day I’d seem to catch
– and even now, a little patch
of it remains upon one knee,
and when I touch it, feelings of
devotion are aroused in me.
Her dimpled marks. My simple love.

Had I for seven years upon
an island paradise withdrawn
and dwelled in summer’s warmth, the shade
of poplar groves perfumed, and played

in fertile fields with maidens who,
unblushing, bathed in sylvan falls
or nimbly served my lusty calls
for myrtle wine and honeydew
– had I encamped for seven years
on that Elysium which appears
in ancient Pindar’s prose (where ‘ocean
breezes blow’ and ‘golden flowers
glow’), no deeper, more ardent emotion
would possess me in these hours
I spend recalling (as former slave)
my island lost, and how she gave
that pebbly sand. A small reprieve
from miseries adored.

                                               I grieve

for her forbidding land! I grieve
for every scar she hasn’t cut
in me these years! I grieve for what
not even Crusoe would believe
a castaway could cope with – storms
and giant waves, and every form
of disappointment.

                                               (Whatever hope
can fester in a self-impounded,
isle-sequestered misanthrope
gives ten-fold pain when its confounded).

I grieve for all that grief because
it was my island’s manner, was
a spot of truth, some solid ground
for fluid meanings to surround.

But this is all foundation. A base
on which I now must build. The boring
of holes, the bedrock’s footing, the pouring
of concrete stanzas – a sludgy paste
of verse that grows (as I commence
my story’s second half) more dense.
The heights my poem will reach, the length
of time it stands, will all depend
(as history knows) upon the strength
of this beginning – which I’ll here end
with one last item of uniqueness:

For all her pitch and pitted bleakness,
her piddling size (for how she’d twist
in agitated angst amidst

the huge caresses of the sea!),
her constant damp, her thousand pools
like velvet purses filled will jewels
of mirrored stars, or potpourri
of orange and crimson clouds at dawn,
or phosphorescent sparklers spawned
by dying daylight’s fire – transposed
to cold wet brine when touched. For all
the agonies my isle disclosed
when once I claimed her, lamely sprawled
upon her ruthless rocks, her worst
affront by far, her cruelest curse
which she in just two days made known,
was this:

                                   She wasn’t mine alone.


Filed under Poetry by Zireaux

2 Responses to Tuesday Poem: “A Small Reprieve from Miseries Adored” by Zireaux

  1. Oh such details in your poetry! And a killer last line. Good stuff — do you write one a week like this? Amazing, really. I love your attention to sound and rhythm.

  2. Michelle, pleased you enjoy it. I’ve been trying to write more prose, even a screenplay, but the poetry feels better when one’s writing is unrewarded and bereft of a benefactor. A sense of long overdue recognition after one’s death.