Departure

He rowed until the palisades wavered in the distance like the energy of heat. The sky took

on a blister-sheen. Out he rowed, further until his motives proved insoluble, until the gulls

began to mock and chide, belittling his strength. He rowed because he couldn’t sleep,

drawn towards the strands and ripples and sickly undulations of his past. The oarlocks

bemoaned his age. Minutes turned to hours and then the hours turned to vortices. He

rowed as if there were no future, no fathomless deception, with only watercress, and water

lilies, and lotus fruit to eat. He rowed, still knowing little of the secrets at the centre of the

earth, but something of pale prophesy having failed to foresee the stingray’s poisoned

dart. He rowed all through the night, all through the dead of night, and through the dead

themselves, who appeared and disappeared, mouthing words without the breath to speak,

with eyes of belladonna he recalled as nightshade. His beard soon turned to salt. His

knuckles becoming stone, then chalk, then windblown wings of dust. Clouds closed in, the

concentric teeth of Charybdis! Yet still he rowed, across the wind, against the wind, then

through the wind he rowed, casting furtive glances back at what bestrode the distance

between himself and what was once the shore — which lay in ruins now — and the citrus

beacon of the sun, which signalled neither safety nor return.

Published online September 01 2010.


The Keystone of Canadian Poetry Turns 35 cover image

This piece was published in ‘The Keystone of Canadian Poetry Turns 35,’ the Fall 2010 issue of CV2.

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