The Pale Priest Dreams of Rescue
     

    by Dan Friedman

    The pale priest of the mute people
    takes now his due from another source,
    carrying off Jordan's bank a host
    of old crushing bitterness from the dim
    grey mist of a soulless void.

    The lighthouse man sends his black cat scurrying,
    and her shadow passing by is premonition of an ill fate--
    an ill fate to befall the ship of cold hate,
    whole hull bound for the hidden reefs whose teeth
    now procure a hopeless voyage.

    The horizon outlines a light blue schooner
    who glides languidly from the bottom of Pandora's box,
    and who awaits with sanguine expectation the coming of a tired swimmer
    who has left the vessel of before.

    Arm over arm and kicking, yet as Sisyphus,
    he labors to remain buoyant in the teeming froth;
    sometimes choking, he sinks below the waves
    which curl out from the reef who now has used his
    black teeth to grind the mother ship into unrecognizable splinters.

    Black and swollen, his salt-cracked tongue
    begins to throb dryly; arms grow limp, and feet
    twitch feebly and uselessly against his endless oppressor
    of all that spurred him on to even this point,
    this point of only onward, no return, no stopping,
    or sink slowly, and begone.

    Then the lifting of a strengthless head;
    spray-stung eyes, slits in the sea,
    squint and discern, with no small twinge of hopeless dolor that the delicate schooner of little Pandora
    seems ever the same long leagues away.

    But barely an instant of fleeting eternity is
    used up in a glorious passage; now the schooner
    is by his side, calming the waters and extending oars
    which are the arms of beautiful maidens who rescue, who snatch him from the frustrated jaws of nauseating hate.

    Up, up again, and still higher, until the schooner and its beautiful blue-eyed golden-haired maidens
    carry their charge and themselves so far into the
    blue and white above; the huge and angry sea
    is below them a mere pond,
    to be sailed by swan-clouds.

    Far below remain the conscious memories of the darkness:
    the reef has fully devoured the old mother ship, spiced by all
    of the empty sadness and unpleasant times it had borne.

    The lighthouse-man takes in his cat, and they sit in their beacon of death, surrounded now by quiet, clear waters.

    There, around the sharp black teeth of the eater of ships of hate, are the fragments of the past: a board, a spar, a bit of a letter, a lock of hair, and a diary of Hellpit. All of these serve to remind the swimmer of what he has left behind, but like the long distance runner, he does not look back.

    Daniel Friedman's Poetry & Short Stories
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