That's an excellent point, replied the Mate,
But still a thought we'll stow below for now.
The freight we bear, I think, is not the source
Of the supernatural attack that looms.
If a few hymns were sung, said the Captain,
Just the ones we know, the first verse each,
We'd dissuade danger and feel better too.
For many a year I've sailed these waters,
The Mate announced as men gathered around,
Enough years to know that if storms approach
Only one craft among all afloat,
It means almighty Godhead's unhappy,
And not low in spirits or just depressed
Or just unhappy in a general way
With slowness of progress in world events,
But unhappy with that ship in particular.
Something aboard has caused him great offense.
Maybe it's the rigging, the Captain surmised.
The rigging, you know, looks kind of sloppy.
Don't dismiss the cargo yet, I said,
Still hoping to ride out this storm
By dumping a few items into brine.
Maybe we have contraband hidden aboard,
Pornography, illicit drugs or arms,
Or maybe we neglected some ritual
Now long in disuse but still on books,
Like a sacrifice, like blood-letting,
Like throat-slitting some virginal girl
Before launching the vessel onto surf.
Is one handy now? I have a knife.
All duties have been performed, said the Mate,
And all customs of port and God observed.
And I've checked the ship itself, stern to bow.
The only fair conclusion's plain to see.
Either high heaven's fickle and lawless
Or some one of our number's polluted
And draws down on us Godhead's disfavour.
Now there's no time to establish guilt
By torturing out a complete confession
From each of us, captain to cabin boy,
Before the ship in these insurgent seas
Takes water and founders and drowns us all.
Knifefights too and trials by combat
In round robin tournaments held on decks
That grow slick with fluids and pitch around
Will also take too much precious time.
I thus propose a game of cards commence.
Let each of us cut the tarot deck.
Highest card drawn is positive proof
That he who draws it becomes sacrifice,
Shall be cast overboard to save the rest.
I'll consent to this proposal, I replied,
And felt relieved indeed luck should decide.
A long winning streak had left me convinced
The fall of tarot cards was now enslaved
To improvement of my sore-wounded fortune.
You'd think I'd learned lessons from prior loss,
But gamblers soon forget past reversals,
Soon reverse the past to improve their moods.
Risk can be reduced if peril's dismissed;
Odds improve if loss is not subtracted
And balance sheets show rosier pictures
After certain items are written off,
Items best forgiven, best forgotten.
Since we hadn't yet gone far from land
The crew still remained unconvinced my luck
Would hold until the trip had come to end,
And still sought to win back their paycheques.
Desperation alone, it seemed to me,
Drove them now to raise the stakes so high.
The others too accepted the mate's game,
And so we each in turn cut that deck.
Liber Jonae Contents