Tag Archives: Robinson Crusoe

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an island paradise withdrawn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.

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Tuesday Poem: “A Traveler Wrecked in Seas of Time” by Zireaux

The Little Prince

'...those secluded asteroid isles / where Saint-Exupéry’s prince is taken'

This post is dedicated to Ms. Daisy Green, whose favorite poem is Longfellow’s “The Village Blacksmith.” She has requested some verses, but unfortunately I haven’t been able to track down the exact stanza — or stanzas — she desires. I offer these as a possibility:

What made my island so unique?

She wasn’t like the others – I mean
those storied isles which through the ages
have charmed lost sailors, thinkers, sages,
attracted whalers, artists, libertines;
imprisoned rebels, convicts, exiles,
and men who crave prohibited sex-styles
(I’m thinking here of one poor Dutchman,
three hundred years ago, who for
that foul offense of being a “touch-man”
was left upon Ascension’s shore
to starve, with just his pen to rise in);
nor like those isles of demons, sirens,
harpies, sea-nymphs, Amazonians,
the ghosts of kings, the Laestrygonians;

or islands in clouds and welkin mists
where fairies live and Peter Pan
and Prospero and Caliban;
those secret realms of scientists,
deranged inventors like Zoreau
(strange typo, that, I meant Moreau!);
or isolated isles where names
find glory in their quarantines,
as Robben spread Mandela’s fame,
or Rikers sold ‘low-riding’ jeans,
or Château d’If changed Dantès to Cristo,
or what’s that island in San Francisco
where tourists flock (just as we know
they’ll one day tour Guantánamo)?

Like none of those my darling was!
Like none of those which constellate
the sphere of books! And oh what great
a sum, what range of islands does
a reader find who journeys far!
What different shapes and styles there are!
How many sea-enveloped lands
have given beds to castaways
and shipwrecked sailors! From ancient sands
which sifted through debris to raise
a slave of Egypt from the surf
and rest him on a verdant turf
all trimmed with grain and incense, lakes
and rivers, ivory, apples, snakes;

to isles of cannibals and skin-mad
colossi who crave that most delicious
cuisine: captive à la carte (Ulysses
blinded the Cyclops; so did Sinbad,
who also met – another chapter
if I recall – an island raptor
who bombed his ship with monstrous stones);
to all those vile-lands that troubled poor Jason,
that isle of rank and murderous crones,
that iceberg isle that nearly encased him;
the isle of Talos, brute of bronze;
the Tohus and Bohus, the Macreons
and all those island beasts that thrive
in Pantegruel, books four and five;

to island-reigning centaurs, dragons,
unicorns, those poor Jurassic
dinosaurs (see Crichton’s classic),
the Liliputians, Brobingnagians,
isles of warring kings and queens
and flying islands rarely seen
against the shimmering azure;
that penguin island France once faked;
ideal, imagined isles, obscure
utopias designed to make
more sense of this, our spinning isle
that hurls each second eighteen miles
around a flaring island sun!

Line none of those she was! Like none

South Pacific

'...sweet Liat on Bali-ha’i / who captivates that Cable guy'

of those secluded asteroid isles
where Saint-Exupéry’s prince is taken,
the isles of Huxley, Lawrence, Bacon,
and countless other islophiles;
Tahitian isles, the warm Marquesas,
or many other South Sea places
where traveling men would sate
there savage needs, and Melville found
his chirping Fay, and Loti’s mate
was courted, bedded, Christian-gowned
and wedded; and countless seraphinas
were inspired – like Wells’s Weena,
that girl who charms (in muted mime)
a traveler wrecked in seas of time;

or what’s her name (she’s also speechless),
oh yes, sweet Liat on Bali-ha’i
who captivates that Cable guy
– and O! Those balmy, palmy beaches!
The coral bays and floral leis,
where hula dancers gaily sway
to songs the ukuleles play…
O how these sumptuous island gardens
are like idyllic fruit buffets
inviting hungry packs of bards in!

And these are just in books! The oceans
of print! How many other island notions,
how many castaways, remade
Atlantisis and Robinsonades,

how many pirates and buried medallions
and secret island laboratories,
tribes of children, animal stories,
island dogs and shipwrecked stallions,
how many blessed isles appear
in other seas! In other spheres
of art! Those same nymphets exist
in Gauguin’s isles and slept with Brando
and in some movie version kissed
a stranded World War II commando;
on TV isles the same survivors
are landed to swallow bugs alive, or
meet that pair on Fantasy’s Wharf,
one debonair, the other a dwarf.

Those little humps of sand, the lone
dejected palm in those cartoons;
or groups of Giligans marooned
upon some island twilight zone.
Like none of those, I say! Unique,
I tell you! Barren, black and bleak!
A spec of sand, a bit of grit
within a vault of priceless gems;
that’s all she was – an isle unfit
beside her peers, eclipsed by them.
And yet, O reader, the fact is this:
Her matchless unattractiveness
– a somber rock of few pursuers –
is what most drew your poet to her.

_________
See the works of other poets at Tuesday Poem blog.

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