Friday, January 11, 2008

572. A Voyage Across Oceanus Librarius - William Wehrmeister

Open the book slowly, to the first paragraph,
and you are on the promenade deck, hanging
over the railing and looking down at travelers
as they board with their boxes and suitcases,
the excited clatter drowned by the ship's
whistle blaring, and then, the gangplank drawn,
the bow points out the bay to the ocean,
and the deck rises to the first great waves
arriving from two thousand miles away, and
there is the sharp bitter tang of the salt air.

Where it goes, you think you know, but today
it floats by strange mazes in the deep green
of the Amazon, where red painted Jivaros stare
out, and vivid parrots scream in the treed canopy.
Around several furious bends, the sudden roar
of a thundering waterfall with vortexed eddies,
and pulling into a sandy safe landing, the river
is silenced by the galaxy as it wheels overhead,
in the soft darkness of the empty quarter of Arabia,
two hundred miles from the nearest town.

There is the sudden shriek of a great haboob,
and sand blots out all vision, and the amber grit
clogs the nostrils and the folds of the Keffiyeh.
Clearing at dawn, the sun glares on the roads
of a crowded city, where people, dressed in Saris,
emerge from trains onto streets, and immerse us in
the huge floods of a dusty population, while
you hang precipitously, hacking steps on the
steep wall of an ice blue glacier, the chips
falling away thousands of feet into nothingness,
into the sweaty depths of a Parisian kitchen,
clogging debris laden sinks while great chefs swear
vile imprecations at a clumsily dropped pan.

Outside on the crowded streets, the great towers of
Shanghai sheer upwards over limos and taxis,
bicycles weave fearlessly in and out, underneath
the white statue of Christ which rises above the blue lined
beaches, while the flashing dancers of Rio samba
through the sidewalk revelers of Mardi Gras,
next to the black hooded Penitentes of Spain.
The throng parts to make way for the camels,
as they plod softly across the Steppes of Central
Asia, the snow capped Pamirs overhead,
while the minaret spires of Haga Sophia stare
out over the Bosphorus, echoing the prayers
of the Hassidic Jews at the Wailing Wall.

A ferry’s white wake is in the distance, bearing
escapees to Alcatraz, island of Pelicans,
surrounded by the sun shimmering summer of the
great California valley, from the center of which
no hill, no tree, only the same unending green.
A bulky Eskimo lurches through the chest high plants,
hurling his spear at a seal on an ice floe, at the edge
of a deep unknown valley of New Guinea, where
a Papuan turns his face upward, hearing the churr
churr kyong, to see the flash of orange wings.
What’s that? says the dentist, “You’re still feeling pain?”
His large needle is poised once again over our gaping
mouth, as we stare upward at the great comet, it’s tail
stretching from horizon to zenith, while Mars flaunts
it’s flaming red, and the four planets of Jupiter
cast orbed shadows over the equatorial belts,
and Saturn's rings float arching overhead.

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