But why, said Marguerite, is high C
Precisely twice the count of middle C?
It's a trick of how ears measure sound.
Use fewer letters, or more, like God,
And such correspondence will disappear
And cease to bother a true connossieur
Who likes his strings to thrumb with microtones.
So numbers, you claim, do us no good?
Modern astrologic research has shown
That numerology's claims are nonsense,
Altogether unrelated to stars,
Galaxies and planetary motions,
To the primeval fireball's ignition,
To forces that resulted from the rotation,
Cooling and expansion of this fireball
That then became malicious pranks designed
To set up the situation in which
I'd little choice but to participate.
First Cause cascaded, cast off sparks,
Corruscated, scintillated with spite,
Sent secondary causes to ordain
That I'd receive in the end the rotten luck
To find myself, like my father before me,
Merely a poor but honest fisherman.
Had God but displaced one small quantum
In space-time's foulled initial conditions
I might have been a king or duke or lord
Or even a poor but honest woodcutter
Set down to dwell somewhere far off,
Some other region or faraway kingdom
Less God-beloved and thus more secure,
Born to parents less enthused by numbers
And less inclined to counterfactuals,
More inclined to be dishonest but rich
And bent to rear sons with similar bent.
Instead there I was, poor but honest,
Fishing in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Poor but honest! It makes me want to puke.
The wedding together of those two words
Was marriage mandated in heaven above,
A safeguard designed to protect the few
On whom God smiles, privileged progeny
Of those robber barons who rule the world,
And what God hath joined, no man may part,
Unless he wields extraordinary luck,
Cleaves the knot with a single skillful stroke.
But that man wasn't me, that luck mine.
The phrase wrong place, wrong time, says it all,
Describes my fishing life start to finish,
From bad start right to horrific end.
The other fishermen could read the signs
That indicated where their prey would lurk,
And since I came from a seafaring folk
Who ate nothing that didn't thrive in salt,
You would think that I'd read fish-sign too,
But not all elkhounds can hunt an elk,
To choose one example among many,
Or know what one looks like, exactly,
Or what you do with it once located.
None admit that, though, to other hounds.
Configurations of shoreline and shoal,
Submerged logs, exposed rocks and sandbanks,
Wave action, the behaviour of seabirds,
The presence of kelp, absence of insects,
All these to me were like lost language,
Minoan linear B, hieroglyphs,
The Mayan pictographs, the Viking runes,
The bad scrawls that worm crawls make in sand.
I couldn't even read a tide-table
Much less puzzle out the secret codes
That signified schools of fish nearby.
This illiteracy brought down disgrace
On generations who selectively bred
And chose their mates not for beauty or brawn
But how closely they matched a model form,
A weapon perfectly honed, finely fashioned,
Fitted by design only to kill fish.
It brought me shame on docks in afternoons
When discussion turned to the morning's feats.
How explain why I brought home no catch?
And how explain I only made it home,
Only found the way by purest of chance?
My fish-understanding was so shallow
Both my thoughts and boat oft ran aground
And kept me going nowhere hours on end,
Waiting for a tide to come float me free.
And yes, I used a boat to go fishing.
I know enough about fishing at sea
To know it done best when done from a boat,
The depths so great that you can't wade out
Without liquid sloshing up your nose.
All the best among the catchers of fish
Go nowhere without a boat beneath.
And it's what they recommend, the experts,
The most proficient among fishermen,
The ones you see featured in magazines
Photographed with boats heaped up with catch.
This is how I wished to picture myself
And so obtained on credit, nothing down,
Easy monthly payments that go for years,
A secondhand early model barge,
Ancient both in its concept and substance.
The concept, in fact, was prehistoric
And belonged to that long-forgotten time
In which the raft began evolution
Toward the more sophisticated forms
Of mankind's oceangoing transport,
When random mutation and genetic drift
Generated scores of exotic breeds,
Like the great oversized motor vessel
Meant perhaps to ferry automobiles
Judging by the expansive asphalt decks,
Which today survives only as a fossil
Half-buried atop Mount Ararat.
Liber Jonae Contents