So chaos drowns the firmament
And justice scalds the sky,
And we, the citizens of sin,
We die—we only die.
Our song of leeward confidence
Lay splintered all around—
The tar and plank of pirate hands,
A chantey of the drowned.
In salted swells, we drank our sin
As Neptune’s cursed wards.
A storm cloud sang not far away;
Clung we to swollen boards.
“The yellow disk, it hides behind
The curtain of the night,
And if, perchance, we swim, we will
Escape its scalding light.
“By lawfulness we’ll masquerade—
These lawless planks our tithe.
No spendthrift here, efficiency
Propels our limbs to writhe.
“And when the sparks of heaven wake
Upon the deeping way,
By sextant we will master them—
By sea escape the day.
“But if no starlight, if no light,
Our toil will lead us hence—
By faculty, by downward brow,
To life let us commence.”
So fixed on darkness, we progressed,
Invested in our chore,
But thunder thundered under us,
Behind us and before.
The sea adjoined the foaming dirge,
Its weighty throat agape
For all the sweat of wetted necks
That financed no escape.
But God, upon that windward word
Of sinners drinking death
Abandoned heaven’s holy air
To wet his holy breath,
Ducked down below the firmament
And stooped upon the biers,
Put on the swimmer’s soggy bone,
And joined the panting peers.
He sang the song of sunlight, but
We would not leave the sea.
So he, because he loved us so,
Gave us co-misery—
When stormsong raised its swelling tune
Upon our foundered pride,
The hands that fashioned Mother Moon
Lay still before the tide.
We die—we only die, I said,
But life would not depart.
In condescension, he became
Our dying counterpart.
Cover photo by Руслан Гамзалиев.