Departure

Smoke rises from the land. Keep your eye on the fishing hut; the sun will set before you've put ten knots behind you. Dark water, thousand eyed, lifts white lashes of spume to look at you deep and long, thirty days long. Even when the ship stamps hard and staggers irresolute, stand quietly on deck. At table now they are eating their smoked fish, afterwards the men will kneel and mend their nets, with night there will be sleep, one hour or two hours, and free from salt and pitch their hands will grow soft, soft as the bread of the dream they break from. The first wave of night strikes the shore; the second has caught up with you. But look straight ahead; you still can see the tree that defiantly raises one arm-- it's already lost one to the wind-- and you think: how much longer, how much longer will that crippled wood withstand all weather? No other sign of land. You should have clawed one hand into the beach, or stitched yourself to the cliff with a skein of hair. Blowing their conches the sea monsters glide, they ride the backs of waves and slash the days to bits with naked sabres, sleep lays you down on their red wake for the rest of your hours, and your senses fail. Something's gone wrong with the ropes, they're calling you, and you're glad they need you. Best is the work on ships, the far-faring ones, the tackling, bailing, caulking and care of the freight. Best, is to be tired and evenings to drop. Best, is with first light to become light, to brace against the immovable sky, not to heed the impassable waters, and to lift the ship up over the waves and carry it toward the sun's always returning shore.

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