How the narrator’s island is found and claimed; more mysterious knocking at the door; and a welcome guest arrives. . .
So down we went – or rather plunged
and hurled, then hovered a moment, then jerked
and dipped – and yet the clouds still lurked
around us, formed a shroud, expunged
the light, while neither land nor sea
broke through the nebulosity.
Still further we dropped, our ﬂashing ship
in thrashing hail, yet still couldn’t rip
through all that thick and turbid gauze;
again we fell, then seemed to pause,
then I saw waves were swelling round
like hackles on a mud-caked hound.
There was a roar. I felt some spray.
I checked the door. No, not the sea’s
encroaching froth – ’twas Megan’s sneeze.
‘Where is it!’ she shouted; and quick to obey,
I seized a tissue from her leg.
‘Not that! Your island! There’s too much drag
down here! If I don’t land this thing,
then it – and us – are vanishing.’
Around that heaving sea I scouted;
and for a moment, reader, I doubted
myself. Had I been dreaming that night?
Had Mr. Pigeon Chest been right?
Had I encountered a barge of debris?
Barnacled trees and mangled metals
on which that spangled starlight settled?
My craving for discovery
– or rather for a special place
where I’d at last escape the race
and ﬁnd my Avalon, my plot
of sacred soil, my resting spot,
a realm where all despair would cease –
this craving for an early release,
had it inspired me to see
some solid ground in fantasy?
And would I now, as Megan said,
be ‘vanishing’ for real? If so,
it served me right to die! Although –
I’d rather only I were dead.
I could not look at innocent Meg.
I felt my backpack – my stake, my ﬂag.
How wicked my Fate! Born, yet birthless,
successful in youth – yet all of it worthless!
And now to take poor Megan down
with me – for what? So I could crown
some secret dream? So I could own
a land which no one else had known?
A land where neither human feet
nor vision were stamped? A private ground
untouched before? Such spots are found
by children and lovers and other discreet
explorers of secret places daily!
The earth, like skin, impermanent, scaly,
replaces wounds with scars, erases
others. Imagine the inﬁnite cases
of ownership, were deeds dispersed
for all things traversed or sighted ﬁrst!
Boundless kingdoms in every city,
and each with millions of subcommittees.
Then why? A fetish for feet which fall
where others haven’t? To sake an ache
for exploration? But then just take
a handful’s prize – why own it all?
Besides, that ﬁrst foot-fall, its shape
and style which print the fresh landscape,
will one day lack seniority.
How quickly all authority
in moccasins was squashed by Spanish
borcequies,78 those handsome, mannish
high-laced boots Columbus wore.
(Great shoes ﬁnd land ‘unfound’ before.)
And Cook’s big-buckled Cromwell boots
– until their print down-under was put
it seems Australis knew no foot.
Its terra was peopled, yet all its fruits
unknown, its land un-owned by those
who walked on bare or ﬂax-bound toes,
their soles too soft to certify
an ownership – though later they’d try.
(God bless our clever cannibals,
who knew the hidden valuables
inside a shoe. For once unlaced,
those feet left only aftertaste!)
And British clerks, their brugals with spats
– they stamped all over Asian soil
while making all the natives toil
as stamp-dependent bureaucrats;
and even when that shoeless warrior,
Gandhi, proved he was a lawyer
and walked where others would have fought
his toes couldn’t claim the land he sought.
And on it goes; and still we’ve kept
this treadful tradition. One small step
begets another’s leap – just like we
see in China (with shoes by Nike).
78 The word, according to Dr. Wendy Llyn-Zaza, a Spanish scholar, is borceguí (sing.) and borceguíes (plural), divided into syllables as follows: bor-ce-gui-es, with the main stress falling on –gui-; the -c- is similar to the English -th; the vowels are pure.
Zireaux’s comments on these stanzas
Diary note: During tour of Australian outback — fine sand, unflinching sun — the aboriginal guide sings heartfelt songs about his ancient ancestors (40,000-year-old remains in this case), neglecting to notice a rare butterfly specimen which nearly alights upon his shoulder.
For more information about the importance of shoes in great works of art, see my comments on “Euclid Alone” by Edna St. Vincent Millay. “Beauty bare,” writes Millay, is a “massive sandal set on stone.”