Celestial Navigation: a poem for World Mental Health Day

Celestial Navigation

Days adrift, waiting for the horizon,
waiting for a fix. The edge of the world
has been rubbed away by the clumsy thumb
of this depression. Isobaric whorls
weave an ancient tale of serial crimes
as the ocean takes the prints, rolled in and out
of the ink of this pitching sky.
My scattered charts have grown cataracts,
protractor and dividers sprout
crabby limbs and scuttle across the cockpit sole.
My sextant wilts, a spider plant starved
of light, starved of familiar sights.

I bailed my supplies overboard:
bloated macaroni and risotto
sloshed out to sea with my spices, herbs,
freeze-dried coffee and tea until there spread
from the stern a salty paella
of foamy food. I know I haven’t drifted far
for I sometimes taste my old provisions
in the long drafts of water I drain from
my bailing bucket. Poseidon has so much
to offer, but I have no horses to drown
and I pray the ship’s cat passed muster,
mewing bubbles as I held her under.

I sheeted her to the mast instead of reefing
in the mainsail and there she bids me,
claws rising and falling. The black Polaris
around which this vessel swirls under the sightless
cloud. She spits S.O.S. in the teeth
of the storm, but the radio mike
is a showerhead that spatters white static
and I don’t know which way round S.O.S. goes.
I clip myself to the jackstay and curl
myself around the cable, wait
for this to pass, my spine against the mast.


From Los Alamos Mon Amour (Salt 2008)