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,
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—
In fair made-up a maiden I awaited—
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,
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.