Sailing from Ostia

Sailing from Ostia

Then :   carried by coarse sails,  to crystal shore,
Thy proclamation was complete :
      “ Tiresias !   whence this ship sailed,
      “ I was but a boy.   fond at the bow,
      “ at the bow I stood to stare e’re o’er
      “ what great pool stares me back;
      “ and now, a man, my hand guides the oar :
      “ we have come to crystal shore,
      “ that crystal shore I vowed to see, and saw,
      “ and yet did not quell the storm. ”
It was these words that perturbed my gut,  backwash
Lingering with a slosh, continuous.
               As if by the shore at Nemi,
               As if by that very bank of Nemi,
               I fell with Tiresias :
               Yet a woman, yet a man ;
               And yet a woman, and yet a man.
In distant chants and drum-thrums that lead ode to the unknown,
Lost,
Ne’re chance would we to seek the source ;
      “ Et cum spiritu tuo, ”
Was the word. Domine, domine,
Whence does this drum-thrum enthrall ?

In shimmering dress I waited, for guidance—
Domine, domine.
In fair made-up a maiden I awaited—
Domine, domine.
Domine !   Domine !
For Tiresias, yet a woman, yet a man,
For Tiresias, and yet a woman, and yet a man :
      Avernus begone ;
      It is my Nemi, not thy gaping maw,
      That calls my hand’s reticence.
And in shimmering dress I lazed,
At once woman, at once man,
And yet a woman ; and yet, a man.
               All the whilst, the drum-thrum tumbled
               Through thine ears, through mine own,
               And the greatest fear awaited out
               Beyond the reach of our mind’s echo’s grasp.

And would this be for naught, this trip ;
And would it be not for the desperate lurch
Of the gut — the gut, a fool, it makes us fools—
And drives our sandl’d feet closer still to the
Feverish thrumming drum-tap.
For thine is this journey ;   for thine is mine aim,
Which I pray may be true :
For if not, my only prayers left are for fleeful hesitation,
For simple desperation ;   my fateful wish
That draws me closer to the drum-tap’s decided doom
Is that this may be Nemi, that very bank at golden Nemi ;
And I hear it call:—

      “ Tiresias !   is that your approach ?
      “ Hast thou found your androgyny
      “ Awaiting reprieval ?   then follow
      “ The wintry, feverish drum-tap,
      “ For Nemi awaits ;   for thou art
      “ Woman — for thou art, too, man—
      “ And distant, golden Nemi and her queen,
      “ Diana, seek the prophecy of closure :
      “ That which was spoken by the madmen
      “ Ovid, Matthew, (one and the same)—
      “ So bring thy sandl’d feet, and the sandl’d feet
      “ Of thine order, thy kin, to the
      “ Distant, golden shore of e’re-waiting Nemi. ”

Such we did, began our red approach,
With swords drawn for fear of cruel retribution ;
Such we took our infant steps towards the drum-thrum,
The feverish tapping, the golden speech :
And all whilst we moved,
Through prayers—
Domine, domine—
Tiresias !—
My silk-clad leg rattled with ev’ry step,
My silken leg that was at once a woman’s, and at once a man’s.


Published by

A. J. Sahnow

Author of The Groop, available on Amazon in print and Kindle. Also poet, writer of short stories, musical recording artist, Dungeon Master, erstwhile filmmaker. Graduate of Film Studies, BA Hons First Class. Twitter: https://twitter.com/SahnowScribbles | Music: https://nounverbnoun.bandcamp.com/ | Short films: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFgGw0vS7jWVWnEoGtHJxKw

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