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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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FROM CYTHERA

                        after Watteau

 


 

The old freighter lists in its own oil slick.

The scullery mate throws

Rotten potatoes off the stern

Orange peels bob in the swell.

And over everything, the stink of diesel.

Not how we came out, no. 

That sleek, white schooner, gay with flags,

Is nowhere to be seen except, perhaps,

As a dot far out, moving toward some other port.

No leis, now, or silly hats.

No fruit baskets or champagne,

No Godiva chocolates on the pillow.  

I laugh when I hear our companions

Complain of chills and low back pain. 

Tax each other with old operations.

Minor, but near fatal, of course, 

Because of incompetence or malice.

They fuss with bags and bleat for porters.

But none come. 

Later, underway, I see the Captain

Put the bottle quickly to his mouth,

Eyeing the high clouds coming in from the north.

We wallow in cross-swells and I’m already

Seasick. 
 
 

 

II. 
 
On shore, the lights have come up

On the littoral and couples ride the hackneys

Up the hill though switchback lanes of rose and jasmine

To the governor’s formal ball. The dinner cruise

Cast off with fanfare, flushed and laughing

Young people down cocktails on the wide foredeck. 

This is exactly how it was when we came out.

And always will be, I must guess.

And if that’s so, that’s good. 

You know, there’s no time limit.

No one comes for you. No visas expire.

Well, OK, maybe they come for a few.

But the vast majority just pack one day

And come down here. They load them up

And off they go. But you know how it is. 

Looks quite rough to starboard.

Thick fog, at least. Maybe we should go in.

I can’t believe I haven’t met you before.

How long did you say you’d lived here?


                                     -Franz Baskett