On the swift cruise there was only time and water, twin mothers
of an anxious son. And money. In the long end of day we pushed
right at the sun and failed again except at witness, the beauty
softened by mist and latitude until we could almost bear it. What else
could we do? We could drain the tanks in a long stern chase
and never get closer, two-footed, chilled, awkward as we are,
the vast ship tiny on the sea. When the captain spoke we couldn’t
understand. When the cruise director spoke we didn’t listen.
There was free champagne but we didn’t get any. If there were stars,
we missed them. On the sea only the surface matters anyway,
the whitecaps a fresh sign of the spirit, happy in the cold surge,
foaming toward the full north, sliding calm as paradise away
as we watched for a tail, a spout, some sign from underneath.
So the wake curled endlessly, the radars whirled, meals were
heaped and spread all day, and the servants pretended to love the work.
The fog had its charms and the chill breeze too, and we learned
that the coast range and the island range allow anyone passage.
They were parents aging gently, good providers with little to say.
Then they were long books written in the old tongue, the one
God made up before she had company. Then they were houses
for any spirit brave enough to make the journey. Then the fog
was laughter, was music, was long hair combed out damp at the fire.
And we walked the slick deck in the long dusk, and the ship
bore us north, and in the dawn the mountains were tattered sails
at the fringes of memory, and the summer home God built
when all our speaking was too much, and the tousled hair
of a quiet daughter, her face too sweet to bear except in fog.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.