Dark Night of the Empress
Her cooled lights drowning now,
fires subsiding, dying under rising waters.
Grit and river-bottom clog the dream:
eyes and mouths wide open, faces blurred.
Seaweed: mermaid’s hair
drifting slowly before the eyes;
the cold tide sucking in at ankle and heel,
pulling them down.
black and white films,
their mouths stretched in a silent scream.
What became of the photographers,
of the men and women who stood their ground
clicking their cameras in unison
as the ship went down?
The air breaks apart:
delirious with dots and devious dashes.
The lighthouse light goes round and round.
It points a finger of silence at the collier
looming silent through the mist.
What price the black pearl in the oyster?
What price the nightmare,
cleanly wrapped in transparent plastic,
desperate fingers tearing the see-through
fabric from the face?
Salt water dashed on mouth and lips,
sharp bows, wet rocks, and a tugging tide.
Toys and boys and dolls and girls
and men and women,
their bodies disgorged untidily,
their useless limbs
flopping at the sea’s foamed edge.
mist shredded itself on the sea-cradled headland.
This morning, the spring tide is a gentle hand
erasing life’s autographs from the witnessing sand.
Silence after the storm:
a pocket full of posies
gathered into a dreamless sleep
they have all fallen down ….