“Stone Horse” by Benjamin Olson

I believe my course true, sail set to
home port. Leagues and years my
voyage stretches to close. Weary in
heart, in soul, I captain my destiny.

Late hour burns seven bells toll, head,
hands, leaden as sounding bronze reads
six fathoms, sand and broken shell.
I feel a sidling hiss of off-pattern swell
slip us sideways, like some misplaced oath.
A keels’ tripping stammer alarms every fiber,
then is gone.
Soft return of steady rolling carries the
closing quarter of this late watch.
Dozing fitfully, almost a rest. Then, slip, strike.
Queer roll presses clammy fingers on hair-raised forearm,
its touch a whetted whisper of hazard unseen.
Straining into darken gloom my eyes, coals of
clinker, tell me no news.
Ringing with strain, my ears pretend to carry
some call. A faint hissing of breakers not far off
beam, confuses with creak of rig, of spar.
Thick, my jolted head tilts chin up.
Did I hear some soprano wail?
Ululation of distress or import?
Then as my ear betrays fatigue my eyes
join in hallucination.

Before me moist Mermaids,
salty Sirens beckon and sing.
Their sybaritic salutations of ecstasy, of doom
caress my scurvy mind with their promise of
lingering death at the price of a changing tide.

Make me fast to the mast that I resist their sweet call.
Yet my hull rises to the swell of ocean.
As Man.

Their open limbs with kelpy caresses urge me to linger.
Chancing hard fetch to ironbound shore.

My heart screams betrayal but my tiller turns hard.
Oh, capricious bilges, why do you beg to flood?
That winsome stone, she already sodden.

No Moon lights this way, Plimsoll dipp’t, never to rise.
No star guides this course, wanderer’s path.
Filmy blue trail, bioluminescent signpost mistaken
for my lover’s inviting gaze.

The waters feel warm, filling my lungs.
Pounding breakers striking the side of my head,
insist on becoming my heartbeat.
My heart insists on being still as the little purple
starfish, my submerged, spongy spirit calls pillow.
The small sandy ripples of the seabed makes my
doom. My home.
Green algal hair swirls about me, soft, slippery, and
permanent.

Her fist kiss tastes like a last kiss, coppery and lush.
Probably, faintly, thought it should be forbidden.
Now that urgency lost, unvoiced, a forgotten wail.
A rejection cancelled by surrender, by exhaustion.

Was I not born to die?
Have I not always been blue, sodden, and coral-sanded?
She says: “I love it when you stop struggling.”
My mouth makes watery “Os”, like a cartoon fish.
There remains no place for me above the wrack.
This swelling cradle is like coming home.
Muted, womb-like, salted repast of timeless embrace.
Bits of my ship nestled beside me as my siren, my
ever love, croons.
“Sleep my love. Sleep my love. With scallop, with lobster.
Six fathoms of blanket covered we curl, we spoon.”

Ben Olson has been writing and performing poetry in Olympia for the past three years. Images of nature; celestial, terrestrial, and human populate his work. 
Ben is a member of the board for Olympia Poetry Network.