Far from Anywhere

“Like Magellan, let us find our islands
To die in, far from home, from anywhere
Familiar.” ~ Mary Oliver, “Magellan”

When we do expire— far
from the islands we can hardly
claim now except by blood—

will there be songs for those
who raised the masts and sailed
seasick months in the hold,

imagining the vessel turned
eastward, as if with the sun?
And who will string with laurels

the nameless, risk’s own
sons and daughters, even those
who never left their inlet

by the sea? They woke one morning
to hear bells tolling, smelled
the countryside turned into

a burning wilderness. Cartographers
drew archipelagoes in the shape
of bare-breasted sirens, mermaids,

monsters of the deep. Possessively
outlined in sepia, in violent hues
of midnight and vermillion,

an isthmus curves like an arm.
Once I read: not a day goes by
that we don’t find an unfound

body to bemoan.* Perhaps
its parts, if not the whole—
hands twitching among sleek

particles on the cutting floor,
a rosary of knots on the backs
of migrants moving down

rows of asparagus or corn.
You know such stories: the letter
never delivered, the body crumpling

to the pavement. Ayah or maid, exile
in the desert. The blur and waver, ripple
in the air before she falls to earth.

* Larissa Szporluk, “Death of Magellan”

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