Friday, January 13, 2006
from "The Second Voyage" by Eilean Ni Chuilleanain I know what I'll do he said; I'll park my ship in the crook of a long pier (and I'll take you with me he said to the oar) I'll face the rising ground and walk away From tidal waters, up riverbeds Where herons parcel out the miles of stream, Over gaps in the hills, through warm Silent valleys, and when I meet a farmer Bold enough to look me in the eye With 'where are you off to with that long Winnowing fan over your shoulder?' There I will stand still And I'll plant you for a gatepost or a hitching-post And leave you as a tidemark. I can go back And organise my house then. ***** "Oar" by Moya Cannon Walk inland and inland with your oar, until someone asks you what it is. Then build your house. For only then will you need to tell and know that the sea is immense and unfathomable, that the oar that pulls against the wave and with the wave is everything. ***** There's this beautiful moment, early on in "The Second Voyage" where Odysseus longs for sentient waves, enemies he can name--"Saluting a new one with dismay, or a notorious one / With Admiration; they'd notice us passing / And rejoice at our shipwreck."--opponents worthy of his labor, as opposed to the waves, which "Have less character than sheep and need more patience." Sisyphus gets the credit, usually, for being the perfect illustration of a man charged with a task he can't accomplish. But both of these poets, I think, really get at why Odysseus is a man with a job he doesn't know how to finish--with the waves or against the waves or walking off into the countryside away from the waves, he's a man unsure of how to let go of the thing that's carried him this far. Sisyphus can't complete his task; Odysseus can but doesn't quite know how. You have to wonder what happens to a man who never runs into someone who'll ask him, "What the fuck are you doing still carrying that around?"