Lanterns. Flags. Each sentry plays his part.
But men on battered ships still drift apart.
They call this knot of stars a Weaving Girl
whose golden needle tears the dark apart.
With ship’s ache rife, and scurvy rampant—
what man can tell pale sail and ghost apart?
Three months of raw unbroken open sea.
Prepare, at last, O Captain, to depart!
Lisboa, fogbound, taught me near and far
are curtains which a traveler draws apart.
Though bared, the breast; unbound, the hair, the heart;
still hidden, plumed with palm, the private part.
I cannot speak of it, this lonely place
of rest—in which past harbors play no part.
. . . Until, one dead-calm dawn, the far horizon
no longer pulls, but only pulls apart . . .
Not the whole, Magellan, no, too much is lost.
Not the whole, yet all the scattered parts.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 37 Number 4, on page 40
Copyright © 2019 The New Criterion | www.newcriterion.com