20180107

Jeff Bagato


Drowned Lands I-V


I. The Winter Siege

                                   A pit below
                    the frozen earth provides
                                            shelter from the weariest 
                                      wind

                                        Not just body cold
                                                 but beyond, to blood,
                       to words that must escape
                               a frozen tongue

                                  Sun bright heat turns
                    these groans to mist,
                                           spreading upon the air
                                     as a fog against
                                                        the light
                                                 of day

                                  It goes, lapping the sea
                                                     like dew; the speaker
                 promises some current change,
                                          concealing the denial
                            of such a change
                                      in the world outside
                                                  of words

 
II. Buried So Deep

                                Ice covers ice,
                                          layers of indifference
                     to the freedom of water,
                          of rock, of man,
                                            of beast,

                                  impacted like the words
                                              of a shaman
                                                          who never held
                       a spear, a cheater who never
                                     prepared his
                                             own spells of power

                             Underneath, a rebus 
                                      made with arrowheads, carved 
                     ivory and a death 
                                 mask—glyphs like maggots 
                                                           running 
                                                  from its nostrils

                                 The mystery of the grave
                       has kept men
                                    testing its bounds
                                              with war upon
                          war, god versus
                                        god,

                           and fine speeches 
                                          meant to deceive,
                                calling on false evidence—threats
              that fade upon nearing,
                                     or cloud the vision 
                                                      against the real 
                                             source of pain


 
III. The Hamlet at Land’s End

                                          Water erased so much 
                of the plain, we lost farmsteads, 
                                and fences, 
                       and the ability to walk 
                                                    from one shore 
                                         to the next

                            The tide lowers in springtime;
                                              then neighbor calls neighbor
                                                             without floats,
                                    striding into the past
                                                   on lands long lost

                               A king arises from drowned 
                 territory, declaiming a myth
                                            of his own greatness that
                                   never was nor 
                                                   can now 
                                       be denied

                                     Flowers grow early
                                               on the remaining scraps
                                                      of present land;
                          warm currents guard
                                         against the frost—

                                    the old tyrant winter
                          stopped by the law 
                                                of the more ancient sea,
                              preserving a faery border
                                            around these
                                     fabled shores

 
IV. Some Other Doom

                                             A stream of speech
                   shifts direction too fast 
                               to remain understood;
                                        it can’t alter the course of events
                        when the drag of past
                                                   meaning lies heavy
                                          on its wayward soul
  
                                    A magician must 
                                                hammer spells
                            for years to effect
                                         a turn in power

                                    A lie alone can’t 
                      move such force,
                               nor a say-so of command 
                                             make new worlds or stages
                          where understudies step up 
                                       to take a bow

                                Lands disappear 
                                                in floods so slow
                                    time passes unmarked
                         and lives run on
                                           to some 
                                                  other doom

 
V. Dreaming of Zealandia

                           Some ancestral man
                                            saw this continent
                               before it drowned,
                 marking its memory
                                     with a tale of glory
                                                   and abundance not
                                              seen since

                              The sunken plains
                                            lie out of reach,
                                                      below the tears
                                    of abandoned serfs,
                 whose proud paradise lives
                        on in empty 
                                       dreams and the lies
                                              o



 
 
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