“The Sea is No Shelter For Fools” by James A. Schmitz


The sea is no shelter for fools
Not a stroke of a painter's brush,
Only in romantic tales a
Surreal span where pirates
Glide across green waters
Toward mysterious islands to
Stash treasures and
Dream the dreams of old men
Drunk with lies

This primordial domain,
More than sixty percent
The earth's surface, first belonged to
Poseidon, a dubious consolation since the sweetness of its
Its pleasures never could relinquish the bitterness
Of its brine:
Brother Zeus took the more coveted heavens while
Hades, the least lucky, was driven like Satan to
Hellish Tartarus

Angered by his hand, old before he was young,
The gruff sea god tortured millions while he sucked up
Others, eroded over time such rocks as the forbidding
Gibraltar, swallowed a sinking Atlantis, and chased
Odysseus for ten years across the Mediterranean and
The Aegean where he urged Circe and Calypso to
Ply their witches' trade,
Flash, like silver fishes, their naked bodies and hold
Odysseus in chains
While the nasty old man claimed all the
Other sad Mycenaean sailors except Athena's
Protected prodigy—the king of the ocean distraught
Because favored Troy wept the way he did, his son,
The blinded Cyclops, tricked, driven mad, unable to
Cipher the masterful mind of the
Weary Greek warrior who
Longed like a leper
To taste only the soothing soil
Of his lost homeland

Now I wander along a Carolina beach,
Skipping stones
Against unwelcoming waves the way
I once did as a child over the more
Pliant lakes of Michigan
I have swum in Maine's icy
Atlantic, braved, naked, a cold, deep
Superior, and drank Mexico's aqua Caribbean and
California's blue
Pacific, yet my brief ventures
Hardly match the meaner struggles
Those mythical Greeks suffered,
Their stories made real by the dim-eyed
Homer who smelled the salty air
From his island home
And sang songs about a passing world
Sensitive sages still summon when
Walking on lone beaches
After darkness has
Slipped past daylight's ending

Arnold from Dover and Smith at Sussex saw, too,
That same timeless body,
Signified through stark images the
Sea as suffering's oldest symbol,
Sophocles' cathartic correlative…
Still this pitiless cavern remains
Mankind's best hope, a feminine
Charmer of wild horses, the
Moon's mistress in love;
What these poets knew is anguished souls
Who cast on the tides their forlorn
Feelings find solace, either in the arms of
Another or through quiet desperation a
Concord, an acceptance that helps them
Toward their final moment
When water and land converge before
Vanishing from sight, mortal body in
Tow, amid the pitched sky,
Enfolded at last by
A breathless eternity