Sunday, December 5, 1976


Navigate sleep: when day disappears
Like land sliding suddenly below
The stark familiar horizon,
Let the tide carry you
Far out on the summoning waves—
Though the only mast
That stands against blue sky
Is the tree at your moonlit window,
And the only deck with the heave
And swing of ocean to it
Is the end of your bed,
Pitching beneath your restless foot;
And the oaken ship’s wheel
Clutched tight to your chest
Is no more than a clump of feathers
Encased in white sailcloth—
Hold on to that bright reflecting water
Until the glow of afternoon fades,
Night arrives and secrets with her;
All the streams of air engulf.
Go below, now, to your low-ceilinged cabin
With hammock of sea-rope slung across
And candle sputtering out;
Safe in a drawer there,
Your dreams in a
Salt-stained leather sextant’s case.
Come up on deck with it, different now;
Seen through sextant eyes, the waves
Are mere extravagance. But
The horizon is a line drawn
For sailors; and even at night,
With that instrument in your hands,
True position is always knowable,
Safe course foreseeable, and home port
Recognizable, until the stars drop
One by one from sight
And other lands, sudden
And near at daybreak,
Claim you for their own.


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