Simply by Sailing in a New Direction

By | 1 August 2010

for Arjen Duinker



Christ Child with Whirligig (Bosch)
twirling until Kingdom Come.

The Word is like the hold of a ship:
Heemskerck, its timbers

shivering in a spring tide, heavy
with antiques from the New World.




Batavia – a rainstorm drowns out talk of borders, where
fungi phosphoresce for our Lord.

Horses lose their shoes, carts
capsize as we ford the Almighty’s deeper

meaning. Wood holds onto the nail’s faith, wood
splinters on the nail’s dogma.

Paradise is here, between the thighs of a slave,
the taste of sea mixed with sky …



Existence is useless
unless you are a hammer – still

you need someone to pick you
up. The hammer ignores the nail –

they both rust but not equally
because nothing is equal; they are still

becoming nothing.


Absence makes the heart go
nowhere. Near the clearing, never

in. To revere is to fear
the empty

when all’s said and undone.


The hand that grabs at air

A net of names
drops into the illiterate sea.

The ambition of blood to overcome

An arrowhead of cormorants
strikes the horizon.

The hand that grabs at water


The waves are available to all.
They do not discriminate.

The king also goes

for the third time, three
being the number of the unseen

One who wills but will not
intervene –

even to direct the dove.


But a wing must scan the air,

time. And the sky is held

by the wing, as the sailor
and the wave

beat one another.


The ship needs the sea.
The sea does not need the ship.

The bird needs the mast.
The mast does not need the bird.


Atlantic, rain on the palm of your hand,
salt in the crease of your thighs.

Pacific, the palm of your hand salty
in the crease of your thighs. Rain.


Father is away on business, Mother
late. The birds are not of this world,

you hear them when you stop
listening. Every ship that ever set

misread the sextant, steered
beyond the known, the named, making

landfall on a beach of bones.


The solar system is a bangle
on the ankle of a god. Shells

inlaid on its rim, our hopes
shine for half the time, time

being illusory yet
divisible. What will we find, losing

our lives to endow museums?
“Provenance unknown.”

We thought of ambition as our rudder,
it is an anchor that drags …


The Word was not ready yet
the devil was a tailor

double-stitching Dutch sails
with Cain’s sinews.

A dove is not a god but
a dove with a sprig is godly.

The explorer draws his chart
on water, concentric

circle after circle …
In the centre his ship of bones.


To port the sign of the fish
rather than fish.

A wreck becoming coral,
the cross on all fours.


What was horizon presses
blood from the genitals.

This is love, the last
commandment: the tongue of a bell

fracturing air. There
the promissory note of the choir,

the cry of the godforsaken gull
swooping on a fish-head

left in the wake of a waka.


The sea monster was Appetite: it annexes
common from sense, stripping

prayers then oaths from master and mate –
they go down before the roaring

lord of savages, hermit crabs, and vitrines. Heads cracked
open, hold the Great Southern Land.


There’s a lot of space
left. We claim that space in the name of.

We use the voice of a futures broker –

it is an anachronism
and we own that anachronism.

When we said bread we meant hunger.
When we heard men we thought women.

When it grew dark we cried

Hallelujah! the night is ours.
Soon the stars will be beneath us.

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