Mother is losing her bearing and I am varnishing
The rudder of my little boat with the slow stroke
Of one bemused that sadness is not storm, unsure
What part of loss to grieve. No hope of patching up
Her memory, nor of walking which she loved. We know
The course from here, however slow, by heart and chart.
So elegant, the balance among sails, keel, wind
And water that maintains a course where everything
Is flow! So elegant, the habit of the brain
And sense, day-sailing down the surface of a life!
But now she is adrift for good, though still in sight.
I had the novice's mania when I got that boat,
A short fat sloop like a potato-wedge with sails.
I daydreamt tacks and reaches and traced charts, yearning
For intimate release into their world. In motion,
A sloop's a wing thrust up as if a tilting gull
Swept through two elements, the lower wing transformed
By sudden evolution to a leaden fin.
Creatures designed to ply across such borderlines
Are complex, even grotesque, yet take the grace of the flow
They struggle with. It is what one would ask of grief.
I sailed into my dream of sailing as I learned
To bicycle: tilting, bumping, adding speed and risk
To earn simplicity. I marveled at the rigging,
Cat's cradle humming to its world. I watched regattas
Wheel like flocks, then one boat growing small in distance,
Weaving into the wind like a calm and private soul.
What an old pleasure is refinement of a tool!
Tuning the instrument, seeking the faster edge,
We go a little mad absorbing what absorbs us,
Until we navigate half-consciously. But then,
How many ways the rigging of the mind can fail.
Because it is a drifting out, not casting off,
Her voyage does not seem the thing it is, but I
At quayside weep and laugh at once, and mean to sing:
For sorrow must be tuned like the good craft it is.