If we take a boat and go sailing, can we keep going until we're off the map, off the edge of the very world? Past the markers, "Here be monsters," until we are lost? Free of the nets and trappings of this landlocked life. Until there is nothing but thirst and hunger and maybe, if we're lucky, some beauty to gaze upon.
Is that why the pirates turned to rum? When their wildest dreams ruddered south of their strangest realities and they couldn't believe their disappointments, nor their unexpected treasures. Maybe it was enough to join in a corroboree, even without understanding how the dance brought stories back from Dreamtime.
Sometimes the prow of the ship was Our Lady, always hooded in the mildest blue, but sometimes she was a slatternly mermaid, a sea tart, her pert nipples ever pointing in the direction they would sail, and most of the men would pray to either one when the ship was tossing and waves were cresting over the deck.
When the water and the night and the air are all one color, when there is nothing dry nor warm to press yourself against, the moon and her cold sister stars are all you can hope for. If you had a conch, you would raise it to your lips and blow. If you had starfish and seaweed enough, you would twist yourself a thorny crown.
When you were a baby, your mother was the Big Dipper and you were her Little Dipper, or maybe she was a giant bear and you her wee cub, or maybe she was the scuttling crab and you were her scrambling hermit, but maybe she was a huge bubble released from the cavernous depths, that rose up through you and broke you into many tiny bubbles.
If I were a maiden (and I'm far from a maiden), I would kneel in the gravel at the shipyard, and try to make a blessing for those who toiled within, until the air blew clean and the infirm were healed. I think I should like the martyrdom of being a girl saint, smiling saintedly down upon the recipients of my miracles.
Overwrite it, whatever the subject, that's what I was taught. And so begin to find the things to cut away, the mooring ropes, and the barnacles to be scraped off until the hull is shining and clean. Sometimes I wonder at my audacity – I am willing to risk everything, and I am glad to keep going where the winds take me.
He threw up deadlights ahead of the storms, mumbling pitiably. Stayed away from the cathead, feverishly afraid the timbers would give way, the anchor would pull him down to the bottom of the sea. Hidden in the foc'sle until the yardarms were empty in case a rope should slide down sudden-like, take a finger or worse a thumb.
Some men liked to taste the native fruit. Some men couldn't be bothered, so accustomed to life at sea were they. Curing a pox wasn't as easy as getting rid of the scurvy, and some of the cures could kill another, and still not heal the sores. This was a world where magic ruled over science and we would do well to remember that.
A freshening wind brought up the moods and sometimes there was grog, revelry and dancing; dipping into the well of memories and dousing each other with refreshment, small reminders of a land life. Could they have done without the shanty that rocked and mimicked the rolling waves, so long at sea, no dove in sight?
Keep going, little one, find your pointer star and set course upon it. Know that you are allowed to keep whatever you find, whatever you need. If you find a lime floating in the saltwater, dip it out; do not expect more in the future. If you find a coconut, drink your milk, scoop the flesh, whatever you have to break it open upon.
Before the Escape
My mother was a monger's wife
with flattened feet
My mother was a gypsy thief
with blackened teeth
My mother was an eat flesh fly
with acid tongue
My mother was a spider bite
with poisoned vein
My mother was a fractured stick
with peeling skin
My mother was a candlewick
with praying chin
My mother was a rabbit foot
with old bat toes
My mother was a chessboard rook
with battle rows
My mother was a cracked back crab
with blood raw spots
My mother was a broken dove
cat crawled nest
with eggs that rot
droit de cuissage
careful and somehow steady handed, perched on the hump between the two bucket seat backseat of Felix's 280zx
she opens the baggie and taps a white mound onto her compact mirror next to the short length of a McDonald's straw
a single dulling razorblade in her thin nimble fingertips, she chops, breaks up the rocks and divides five even lines
passes it forward to Felix – the driver gets the first two hits – plus, he is her man, then he passes it to Oscar riding shotgun
sitting next to her, I know that she will get it next, and the shortest line will go to me, our eyes never leave the mirror
maybe that is why she fumbles the baggie and it dumps out onto the right thigh of her skintight pegged black jeans
oh fuck, we all say together as the cloud of powder settles into the fabric, and she looks at Felix to gauge his anger
she is already scraping her pants with the blade, trying to salvage whatever she can before he says anything
you're lucky I love you, babe, line it up right there, he says as his torso surges between the front seats and her legs
he sucks a line up his nostril while gripping her thigh hard enough to make dents and notices a tear in the vinyl
how the fuck did that happen, he looks at the seat and me, then away in disgust, as though he has found the culprit
shrugging is no answer, but I know that the denial bubbling frantically in me will look like guilt to them
it is easier for me to take the next hit, but I wait as Oscar twists himself around to take his turn at her thigh
there is plenty for all of us, but I snort the shortest line again, afraid that things will turn ugly if I have my fair share
something upsetting and erotic in putting my face down near her lap, lingering there as I inhale to pull the coke up
she is skinny and limber so she can fold over herself to reach the line, her Rocky Horror t shirt just an upper lip
the drip from my sinuses numbs my throat and I sniff and sniff to get it all deep into my body so that I can feel nothing
the car is parked far away from the entrance to our high school, but the lot is filling up around us as we mine her jeans
when every visible speck has been hoovered up, we each take turns licking the fabric until our tongues freeze
the remaining crumbs in the baggie are mixed into the joint Oscar rolls on a scratched frisbee so we can hotbox
smoke pours out of the car when we open the doors and we drift with it into the auditorium, find seats in the back row
in the dark I am so high that my mouth hangs open for the whole show, numb to the feeling of Oscar's hand moving south
The Golf Course, Kendall Lakes Miami '86 – '87
Johnny had a CJ-7 jeep we used to take four-wheelin in the abandoned golf course where our friends had burned down the clubhouse while they were in junior high
The golf cart tracks remained long after Florida had reclaimed the land, unchecked sawgrass up to my shoulders next to the bald paths through the tangled vegetation
The caddy shacks stayed chained shut, their outcropping rusting tin roofs would have offered some shelter in the heavy rains if they didn't beg lightning strikes
Snapping turtles liked the log near the tree where we hung the tire swing, which made it seem all the more dangerous to pitch myself out over the water and let go
Our gang always knew the spot to meet and across the lake from us other kids from school would congregate, we were all considered burnouts, but from different sects
When the police or rangers would show up, whoever saw them first would signal the rest, twirling our up-pointed fingers to silently imitate the spinning blue lights
An older guy named Jesus lived in a treehouse built from scraps of wood he salvaged from the nearby construction sites, would buy us beer, his cat was also called Jesus
I dropped my first tab of acid there one night and foolishly wanted to surf on my car while Jenny did donuts in the long meadow until I flew off the hood onto my head
Vince and I had awkward, meaningless sex in the Chevette's front seat, my knees rubbing against the sheepskin seatcovers for a few brief thrusts until he was done
The music that blared from our stereos was Poison, Mötley Crüe and Metallica, and the guys made fun of me for liking Prince, The Police, U2 and REM, called them weak
We went there in the daytime when we were cutting class; we hid there in the night when we were escaping our homes, endless rows of identical pink deco stucco