A rhyme, said Marguerite. I heard rhyme.
It can happen, I said, in moments of stress.
Well, then, said the Mate, observe yon jinx.
Does he not stammer, does he not blush
As fate's instrument pops up nearby?
This behaviour betrays secret knowledge.
This meet on high seas is an appointment,
Not just happenstance but rendezvous.
And look at him, with one eye pointed here,
And the other there, it just weirds me out.
The cards, it seems, do not steer us wrong
And we need no further talk: throw him in!
And you there, take that lifejacket back
And call the chaplain out to make a speech.
Remember, friends, that once the owner's gone
Both ship and cargo belong to us.
How much time... I spat at the captors
Who half-dragged my body across the deck
To where their chaplain made ready his notes
To read a few words of comfort and hope.
But some crewman's hand stifled my mouth
Before I found voice for my own few words.
Thereupon the chaplain intoned wisdom
Dredged up from his own prearranged text.
Three are the days a man is in the grave
Before his swollen belly bursts apart
And pours putrefaction beneath his nose,
But thirty days will pass before his soul
Completes its full, comprehensive review
Of how a brief career had gone amiss
And leaves the corpse behind for parts unknown.
Etcetera, etcetera. Throw him in.
In this sea, Marguerite, cash or not,
It was sink or swim, and so I smartly swam
As waves welled up high above my head.
I saw, carried inside the surging whelm
Like pieces of fruit in jellied dessert,
Bits of Nineveh, those bits that float.
Although some might have spent the time
And puzzled on how all fits together,
This shingle, this rafter with that roof,
This door, this stud with that drywall,
My own attention only sought escape.
Skill as visionary will not improve
Abyssmal navigational technique,
Unless you're also some kind of saint,
A more creditworthy client of God,
And thus receive the same package he gave
To all the migratory waterfowl.
I mean that knack that pulls apart poles,
That puts north that way, south over there,
Air overhead, water down below.
Foresight itself will dissolve when wet,
And hindsight rarely improves a flounder,
So that I knew not which way I swam
Save it be away, let it please be away,
The way away from that aquatic form.
But there it was again, back before me,
Close enough for insight to click in
And outsight to bow out, close enough
For second thoughts to override the first.
Now I perceived I'd made a bad mistake,
A faux pas, a massive Freudian slip.
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
I saw now, through my other eye perhaps,
It wasn't my missing organ after all,
But rather, in fact, my old friend the fish,
Flippant still, but now grown grandiose
With Godhead's ichthyphallic bombast.
It spake then, last ictus, rictus wide.
Liber Jonae Contents