Poem: My Life Aboard the Last Sailing Ship Carrying Cumberland Coal



You give your firstborn daughter
A central-Asian name
Meaning blue or water.
Years later two bluebirds alight on either arm
And an artist’s quick needlework
Stitches birds to skin
So even
In your obsequies your fetlocks
Wing away, appear then disappear. Of course
Now you are a horse

With pale blue withers on a high Afghan plain.
What does it mean to be
Such a thing? Behind you, the blue Pamir mountains.
Before you, antiquity.
You follow a trade in lapis lazuli
From Badakhshan to the court of Cleopatra.
You see morning’s blue aurora
Alight on the Nile delta and around the eyes
Of the pharaoh. Oh.

Isis, God of sailors. Entering the Salish Sea
Pamir becalms in a thick mist
Off Cape Flattery.
The water beneath the ship is dark lapis.
You are on the yard of the crossjack working canvas.
Out of the blue
The blue
Wings of eros and agape alight in you. Deus ex caritas.
Your God is born.
Cape Horn.

Galapagos. Azores.
The hurricane with a woman’s name that sinks Pamir
Off the blue shores
Of the Portuguese vernacular.
It all comes together in the English word
Azure. The hue of your daughter’s eyes.
Cognate of lapis lazuli.
The bird
A sailor gets on his arm for sailing the globe in three thousand years.
The horse that gathers away, appears then disappears.

illustration by Chris von Szombathy