Tuesday, October 11, 2016

In His Cloak Still Freezing

In His Cloak Still Freezing

Deep in the sea there are currents.
Some persist for centuries, plunging off of the silty shelves,
and sweeping before them an unresisting jumble of debris,
which they take with them into the stygian depths.
A chill river flows from the glacier's toe,
bringing with it all the glacier carries,
and depositing its load where no sun shines.
What has the river borne, I wonder, in the millennia of its flowing,
and can any part of its burden ever return to lighted lands?

If a young man, far from his tent and his warm soft wife,
were to fall into a crevasse while hunting the caribou,
would his companions be able to draw him out?
Would they drag his frozen corpse on a travois
with them, back to his mourning people?
If he fell too far, shattering green bones on cliffs of ice,
where the gentle snow kissed his boots and his
blue, glistening cheek,
would the glacier take him to that cold, dark river,
source of an icy current that has no end?
What would find him, I wonder, in that fell flowing,
and can such a man hope ever to return to day's dominion?

There are no mariners hardy enough
to ply these frigid currents of the deep, but if there were,
surely a cold and lost young man might find a berth,
perhaps as cabin boy on a ship
whose captain would seek the lightless reefs
where aberrant creatures build cathedrals
that no one ever sees.
These ramparts and towers guard their
owners from reivers of the depths;
pirates wild and shaggy, whose
garments are their own tentacled skins,
and whose eyes can never close.
What would become of a cabin boy in these cold dark seas,
and can a young man find passage back to the world above,
where a new wife still grieves for her dead first love,
to return unlooked-for in his cloak still freezing?

Publ. Strange Horizons, 2003

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