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Voyages Analysis

Author: poem of Philip Levine Type: poem Views: 10

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Pond snipe, bleached pine, rue weed, wart --

I walk by sedge and brown river rot

to where the old lake boats went daily out.

All the ships are gone, the gray wharf fallen

in upon itself. Even the channel's

grown over. Once we set sail here

for Bob-Lo, the Brewery Isles, Cleveland.

We would have gone as far as Niagara

or headed out to open sea if the Captain

said so, but the Captain drank. Blood-eyed

in the morning, coffee shaking in his hand,

he'd plead to be put ashore or drowned,

but no one heard. Enormous in his long coat,

Sinbad would take the helm and shout out

orders swiped from pirate movies. Once

we docked north of Vermillion to meet

a single spur of the old Ohio Western

and sat for days waiting for a train,

waiting for someone to claim the cargo

or give us anything to take back,

like the silver Cadillac roadster

it was rumored we had once freighted

by itself. The others went foraging

and left me with the Captain, locked up

in the head and sober. Two days passed,

I counted eighty tankers pulling

through the flat lake waters on their way,

I counted blackbirds gathering at dusk

in the low trees, clustered like bees.

I counted the hours from noon to noon

and got nowhere. At last the Captain slept.

I banked the fire, raised anchor, cast off,

and jumping ship left her drifting out

on the black bay. I walked seven miles

to the Interstate and caught a meat truck

heading west, and came to over beer,

hashbrowns, and fried eggs in a cafe

northwest of Omaha. I could write

how the radio spoke of war, how

the century was half its age, how

dark clouds gathered in the passes

up ahead, the dispossessed had clogged

the roads, but none the less I alone

made my way to the western waters,

a foreign ship, another life, and disappeared

from all Id known. In fact I

come home every year, I walk the same streets

where I grew up, but now with my boys.

I settled down, just as you did, took

a degree in library sciences,

and got my present position with

the county. I'm supposed to believe

something ended. I'm supposed to be

dried up. I'm supposed to represent

a yearning, but I like it the way it is.

Not once has the ocean wind changed

and brought the taste of salt

over the coastal hills and through

the orchards to my back yard. Not once

have I wakened cold and scared

out of a dreamless sleep

into a dreamless life and cried

and cried out for what I left behind.


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