Thursday, April 28, 2022

Tales Told to the Water

A stone’s throw from the Café Du Monde,
I sit on a wooden bench
facing the jeweled lights of the Crescent City
reflected in the swirling midnight currents
of the Ojibwa’s ribbon of big river.
A cargo-carrying behemoth,

dark except for red running lights,
rounds Algiers Point, searching for the Gulf.
I hypothesize that its belly is heavy with tractors
destined for rich farmland in Ethiopia
and that the engineer does splendid card tricks
and even made his girlfriend disappear into thin air.

The captain, a bigamist with wives
in St. Louis and Liverpool, smokes a Calabash pipe
while thinking of his grand charade.
One of the deckhands cries himself to sleep
because his daughter is a cloistered nun
who knows that his soul is laden like Ulysses’,

his memories a wartime landscape
littered with alcohol and broken promises
to a little girl and a now-forgotten god.
The freighter glides silently under the bridge
until it is obscured by dark miles of night.
I christen it the Acropolis

because I, the omniscient narrator,
have decided that its registry is Greek
and that Zeus has once again been unkind
to sailors trying escape the view from Olympus.
I will not submit these stories for publication.
They are only tales told to the water,

which may, by providence too deep to fathom,
wash against the hull of a freighter
and be read by men who, seeing their lives
exposed and written on a slate-gray sea,
will find safe harbor, love, and redemption.

~William Hammett

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