So, you are an evolutionist, parrot?
Not so, I said. The world was created
Just now, just as you last spoke to me.
Your sentence is only a false memory,
A false fossil like all those with which
God has salted underlying strata.
This is how too it all gets destroyed,
When the last dispensation expires.
Rapture uproots the saved like carrots,
And lets the rest pursue their phony lives,
Unaware of nonstop lightning strikes
That blast to ash all hopes they hold dear.
All of our yesterdays never happened,
None of our tomorrows ever turn up,
But it doesn't matter, what can you do?
We must press on with life nevertheless.
If every moment will make us anew
Why bother making dinner? said she.
Why not pick up the phone, order it in?
Either the quails will come and manna falls
Or else your hot pizza goes elsewhere,
Maybe next door, maybe across town.
Either way, bird, someone else pays.
My boat had a square hull and a flat keel
And four shallow sides and four corners.
It was propelled, when propelled, largely by chance,
Like those romantic, rudderless craft
That took the knights made despondent by love,
Bore them off at low speed, slapping waves,
And drove them directly into fog banks.
Chance and fate, when adrift in boats at sea,
Are near twins, look very much alike,
And viewed from distance often confuse fools
For whom the better course, the better goal,
Will always lie inland, far from surf,
And far from undertows that drag you off,
And tug you out to sea, willing or not.
Upper waters are contingent, undirected,
And broken apart by conflicted forces,
But lower down the currents run unseen,
Give events intent otherwise lacked,
Provide plot and purpose, a causation,
A teleology to test attention.
But there was no way to know beforehand
Which of the directions my boat would take.
My boat would, without fixed bow or stern,
As ready bear east as head to the west,
As likely bear north as head to the south,
Bear northeast as head to the southwest,
Bear northwest as head to the southeast,
To southsoutheast as the northnorthwest,
To southsouthwest as the northnortheast...
Is something stuck, parrot? said Marguerite.
Some relay or solenoid, I said,
Isn't properly snapping itself shut.
To etcetera as the etcetera.
Because I possessed no compass on board
Which which I might compute the north
The direction that the boat chose in the end
Remained almost entirely conjectural
Until it slowed, stopped and started to sink.
In fact, if my unwieldy craft could be said
To have any preferred direction at all,
It preferred to sink to the floor of the sea
And to mingle with those long, drifting kelps
That inhabit the universal depths.
And this was due, no doubt, to its substance.
My boat's substance was wood, an ancient wood
So far advanced in decline and decay
That it scarcely deserved wood's title.
Certainly it possessed none of that strength
Or that rigidity one would be inclined
To associate with the substance of wood.
It had the tendency, at the slightest touch,
To disintegrate into a topsoil,
And not the rich, fertile loam of the Nile,
Not the silts of the Tigris and Euphrates,
Not the soils of the Ganges, Amazon,
Mississippi, Columbia or Congo.
This was not a topsoil that nurtured a crop
So huge it fed not only labour
But an idle management class as well.
This topsoil possessed no nutrients,
Unless you were to call salt a nutrient.
I am inclined to call salt a condiment,
But I am tolerant of other taxonomies.
And yet, if by some extreme mischance
A seed were to lodge itself in such soil,
A seed of even the most hardy weed,
It surely would not prosper on the diet
It found in the soil from the wood of my boat.
But soil did not linger in the vessel
Long enough for the passing seed to find;
The water that entered through all the holes
Would quite regularly sluice it away.
Now water, I found, was quick to enter
But reluctant to exit the vessel's holes.
Consequently, I was constantly bailing.
To bail my water-filled boat I would take
An old soup tin in my starboard hand
Along with a beer tin in my port hand
And would wildly flail both arms at the flood.
But because the transient paper labels
Had long ago come off both tins
It was never possible for one to say
Which tin was soup and which tin was beer.
And since the hull was so perfectly square
It was never possible for one to say
Which side was port and which was starboard,
To mention nothing of the bow or the stern,
Unless by some chance the boat was headed
In the direction I happened to face,
An occurence too remote to consider,
So that one never knew if the port hand
Flailed with the soup tin or with the beer tin,
Or if the beer tin was held in the port hand
Or starboard hand, of if starboard hand
Flailed with the beer tin or with the soup tin,
Or if the soup tin was in starboard hand
Or port hand and one could never know,
One could never stop to think it over,
And one could never stop bailing water
If the vessel were not instantly to sink.
Liber Jonae Contents