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More poems by Philip LevinePhilip Levine | Print this page.Print | View and Write CommentsComments | Books by Philip LevineBooks by Philip Levine

Voyages

Philip Levine

Pond snipe, bleached pine, rue weed, wart -- 
I walk by sedge and brown river rot 
to where the old lake boats went daily out. 
All the ships are gone, the gray wharf fallen 
in upon itself. Even the channel's 
grown over. Once we set sail here 
for Bob-Lo, the Brewery Isles, Cleveland. 
We would have gone as far as Niagara 
or headed out to open sea if the Captain 
said so, but the Captain drank. Blood-eyed 
in the morning, coffee shaking in his hand, 
he'd plead to be put ashore or drowned, 
but no one heard. Enormous in his long coat, 
Sinbad would take the helm and shout out 
orders swiped from pirate movies. Once 
we docked north of Vermillion to meet 
a single spur of the old Ohio Western 
and sat for days waiting for a train, 
waiting for someone to claim the cargo 
or give us anything to take back, 
like the silver Cadillac roadster 
it was rumored we had once freighted 
by itself. The others went foraging 
and left me with the Captain, locked up 
in the head and sober. Two days passed, 
I counted eighty tankers pulling 
through the flat lake waters on their way, 
I counted blackbirds gathering at dusk 
in the low trees, clustered like bees. 
I counted the hours from noon to noon 
and got nowhere. At last the Captain slept. 
I banked the fire, raised anchor, cast off, 
and jumping ship left her drifting out 
on the black bay. I walked seven miles 
to the Interstate and caught a meat truck 
heading west, and came to over beer, 
hashbrowns, and fried eggs in a cafe 
northwest of Omaha. I could write 
how the radio spoke of war, how 
the century was half its age, how 
dark clouds gathered in the passes 
up ahead, the dispossessed had clogged 
the roads, but none the less I alone 
made my way to the western waters, 
a foreign ship, another life, and disappeared 
from all Id known. In fact I 
come home every year, I walk the same streets 
where I grew up, but now with my boys. 
I settled down, just as you did, took 
a degree in library sciences, 
and got my present position with 
the county. I'm supposed to believe 
something ended. I'm supposed to be 
dried up. I'm supposed to represent 
a yearning, but I like it the way it is. 
Not once has the ocean wind changed 
and brought the taste of salt 
over the coastal hills and through 
the orchards to my back yard. Not once 
have I wakened cold and scared 
out of a dreamless sleep 
into a dreamless life and cried 
and cried out for what I left behind.

Added: 25 Feb 2002 | Last Read: 15 Oct 2018 4:54 PM | Viewed: 4046 times

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URL: http://plagiarist.com/poetry/2956/ | Viewed on 15 October 2018.
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