The Seafarers

Konstantinos Doxiadis


And then went down to sea
And carved the shore along their breakers
Dry keel on wet sand
And salt spray stinging at their skin


The winds grow stronger
And wilder are the waves
Rising froth seeping into timber
Curling up the prow

And the sands soak deeper
They force them to their knees
To kneel before the churning waters
And face the ever-twisting sea

And then a lull in the struggle
A silence…
A silence amidst the howls
And then a whisper
A quiet whisper
The low voice of Hesperus
Giving reason to their fears

‘What if the sun sets
And no moon rises to replace it?
What if the sea swells
And the tides drain out the coast?’

He tugs at their sleeves

‘What if your ship lies grounded
And you by its wooden carcass rot?’

And so they stand
Rubbing grit from salt-flecked eyes
And stretching weary bodies

‘And what if the stars
Faint and ever-fading
Are only visible at sea?’

And so they turn
Straight backs hunched once more
Eyes shining with resolve

And putting shoulder into stern
They push –
And digging bare soles into mud
They heave –
The crudely felled wood
Stirring against their efforts
Loose ends and jagged corners
Giving way against their weight
And reeling down into the shallows

Here, crest and prow are one
Rising and falling
With a single breath

-From salt unto salt-
And back to the beginning:


They drag themselves onto the deck
Drenched in water and sweat
And soft laughter shatters through the turmoil
Rivalling the gale...

And hand upon worn-out hand
Grip hard onto the halyard
Hoisting up those measly sails
Those dirty patches of tatters and dreams
Gasping madly for the wind

And the ship lurches forward -
No longer one with motion -
Scrambling in vain to stay afloat
As the shore recedes into the distance
And sun upon horizon draws
Spooling out its dying embers
And sewing cowls of shadow on their backs…

It is a shame they do not turn
Not even for a moment
For as the final ray is woven
And their shadows into darkness cast
They fail to see them shrouding
All lands within their grasp

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