Friday, May 26, 2006

Kings And Queens Of The Ancient Seas (Part Three)

“Set sail?” I asked. “I thought
at least you would stay the whole summer.”

“We must leave here, now,
to catch the favorable weather south.”

We sat holding hands. “Do you think
you’ll get back this way next year?”

“Dad wants to head for the high latitudes
and make for the capes.”

I spoke, then, without thinking,
desperate. “Take me along. As crew.”

Lisa smiled, but gently.
“Do you know anything about boats?”

“I do know something
about you,” I said. “I know I like you.”

“And you know I like you. Very much.
But the seas demand more

than affection.”

          “Whatever I must know,” I said, “I can learn.”

“Yes,” Lisa said. “I believe you can.
And I believe you will.

I believe we’ll meet again. I believe
I’ll see you around.”

Then she kissed me. She kissed me goodbye.
We kissed, and cried, goodbye.


Lisa’s father weighed anchor
and sailed their junk-rigged ketch to town

to take on final supplies
Tuesday morning. They loaded up,

Lisa kissed me and gave me a present
and they sailed away.

She gave me a rolled-up sheet of paper.
The inside displayed

the western edge of South America
with certain landfalls

circled, tracing their planned itinerary
for the next year.

I couldn’t figure out the other side.
A friend clued me in.

The other side displayed a map, too.
A map of what my friend

called, “Pangea.” Pangea
represented what scientists

suppose all the continents looked like
many millions of years

ago before they broke up
and drifted apart on shifting

tectonic plates. A map
from, in theory, millions of years back.

I like science but I just don’t know
about millions of years.

Last year escapes me, really,
let alone the epochs gone by.

To my teary eyes, the map
of Pangea looked as detailed –

looked as real and utilitarian –
as the other side.

I wanted to ask Lisa.
I wanted to lie back while she

told me all about it.
About maps and territories, and

the present, the past.
About what I think I know and I don’t.

But Lisa sailed away,
leaving me with a map and a kiss.

Some shirts, of course.
And a change of mind. I decided to live.


I cashed in my net worth,
gave two weeks notice and bought a boat.

My net worth didn’t gross me much,
so a friend helped me pick out

a West Wight Potter 19.
“No one will ever mistake her

for an America’s Cup boat,” my friend told me.
“And no French

family ever would want to live aboard her.
But for less than

ten thousand bucks the Potter gives you
nineteen feet of real boat.

If you learn fast, coast-hop carefully
and catch some breaks, this boat

will take you around the world.
You don’t sink her, she won’t sink you.”

So I packed up my passport,
got some shots and wrote down all this.

I put on a cool shirt
and now I cruise with the summer, too.

Now I set sail
for a world I know nothing about. A life

I know nothing about.
This world. This life. The same life, same world,

as the kings and queens
of the ancient seas. These seas . . .


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