Saturday Poem


Suzie Patlove

Was there really a man
who bent his silk-stocking knee
before Isabella, a plumed hat in hand,
and did she say yes, sail out across the unknown
and claim it for me
, being, as she was,
accustomed to empire?

And, on his three ships, were there
men high in the rigging with fears
of a flat end to the world,
and when they came near land,
were the people who lived there
really unable to see the shape of ships,
unable to conjure anything
so huge, coming white-sailed,
on their turquoise and rippled sea?

And did all this begin a dance of greed,
did death and indenture grow up
beside the fine idea of liberty
on land so rich and full of grace
that a great darkness could be hidden?
And would the cries of Africans, trapped
under the decks of other ships,
be heard centuries later
when the land was paved with neon
and desire had been sown from sea to sea?
And was addiction after addiction spawned,
until map lines were too small
for the growth of so much wanting?

Now the foppish knee that bent down
before Isabella bends again.
This time the answer comes back from
the faceless monarchs of commerce,
yes, take the whole round truth of it.

I am in the rigging of this ship-bent-on-empire.
I am also in the garden of my green island.
Ahead, the earth goes over
the cliff of itself, yet still I hear birds,
singing of something in the salt air
which appears, but is not yet recognizable,
on the blue sheen of our horizon.