There are squirrels and a wall of cicadas on this ship.
It’s so large its bow is a matter for belief
or cynicism to us on its stern.
The no-go area that the green man’s family
decreed must always surround him leaves us room
for deck chairs and depression and the chapel
we retire into for prayer when it rains hard.
This is in fact a truly enormous ship.
You might think this is about the green man. You’d be wrong.
He’s been written off so long that he has offered
to bury his own ego in the chapel
but his family says that shows too much respect.
For him. ‘You’d dis the chapel!’ they accuse.
We shall leave him in his no-go while we sail.
‘More love than I can ever want or use,’
is the cri de coeur of lost souls who abuse
the atmosphere by breathing it. Who knows?
There may be more to life than they suppose.
The ship gets underway, its cheerful wake
contrasting gaily with those that we hold
for the green man. But forget him. Underway!
The cicada wall moves with us, clever flying
if they really fly and aren’t pinned to the wall
that is in turn pinned to the ship’s port rail.
Ship bells calls us to dinner, the second sitting.
We walk through the no-go area on the way.
It has only virtual boundaries, which the green man
through piety and custom honours. Come!
He is not worth your attention. Let’s go eat.
The rain drives harder. Tall, green waves course by.
Drenched squirrels crowd past us rushing to their cabins.
The cicadas — they weren’t pinned — cut loose and fly,
their timbals clicking as the storm clouds darken.
The lounge is still and cocktails gently slosh,
the only indication we’re at sea.
I have been in smaller hotels, smaller towns.
A steward asks for bets that the green man drowns.
He gets no takers. There’s no green man on board
or, if he is, no person in first class
or second class or steerage will admit
they know anything about him anymore.
* * * * *
The green man reaches for and through my heart.
‘He’s not here, he never was!’ his children shout.
I have not been bothered lately by the squirrels.
There are dogs outside my cabin lacking muzzles.
They are fair likenesses of Satan, licking chops.
We dress for dinner: scalpel-dressed hung venison
is the first of many courses in the gauntlet
we run pursuing pleasure oh so long
that when we catch it, it and we’re undone.
The green man’s nonexistence weighs me down.
Were a shark to bite my leg I’d say, ‘You’re welcome,’
sensation costing what it does these days.
Death stalks us every day. We ridicule him
with impunity each day until he strikes
and then no more. The raven had it right.
Cicadas steal the social captain’s table.
The richest guests of whom I too am one
are as one demanding they be stolen too.
The cicadas fly the table to the wall
on the port rail of the fantail, set it down
and set it with a service just for one.
There’s ever so little here that I understand.
The squirrels comprise an adequate brass band.
Cicadas circle dreamily in lieu
of swans so far from shore. They’ll have to do.
The oldest son of the green man has no father,
to hear him tell it as he often does.
‘An old man,’ he says, ‘is an unholy bother.’