Shipwrecked again. I disentangled kelp
from belt loops, collar, cuffs. Soon I had help:
a willowy woman, nearly seven feet,
out for a seaside stroll. A scholar of myth
who’d combed the Aeolian Islands, Cyprus, Crete,
foothills and arid footnotes, gathering shards
of the existence of forgotten bards.
Her island had an unrecorded name
and stony coast. The villa she shared with
twelve pampered kittens smelled of sweet botanicals;
her bed was spacious with a silver frame
and, dangling from the posts, four iron manacles.
Her tone was docent-smooth throughout the tour.
“We’ll rest,” she said, “and then I’ll show you more.”
We picnicked on the lawn, drank hyacinth wine,
smoked lettuce, lotus, opium, catnip, cloves;
splashed one another, giggling, in the coves—
and when she shed the dress I’d soaked with brine,
I stared and stared, my brain completely lotused.
I stayed and stayed. Weeks floated by unnoticed.
Or else months, years .... I can’t exactly say
she held me there with whips or chains or potions.
Held me unwillingly, I mean. Pure play
in all its strangely regulated motions
secured our bondage, while the unloosed forces
lashing her little rock with wind and foam
brought gorgeous seabirds, tortoises, seahorses
weaving their spell of charm about the game.
It worked, most days. But even where no home
or love lies waiting (only more chains, more locks),
allegiance to the kingdom of the Previous
will render every fresh devotion devious
and every clawed adventure deadly tame.
I bolted. Grabbed a rowboat by the oarlocks.
Twelve kittens bristled at me, pupils narrowing.
I threw them back a wounded look. Escape?
No, no—the shedding of a false belief.
I launched my vessel with a headlong scrape
and splash; missed, by a whisker’s breadth, the reef
toward which a new sail was already arrowing.
As for supplies, I’d smuggled out enough
to scrub my tender limbs, conceal each faint
mark of resistance with a linen cuff,
mix a dark cocktail in a salt-rimmed cup,
and toast the sail as my clear brain whipped up
an unrecorded epic of restraint.