Sailing from Ostia

Then : carried by coarse sails, to crystal shore […]

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—
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.