Last Thoughts of Sycorax

The Properties of Water, Barthélemy (15th Century)

To the naive observer
she is an old fisherwoman, perhaps,
or a hovel dwelling hag.

Her coarse skirts hitched
above her sagging knees,
she wades alone at night
in the warm shallows
of the tropics under the blinking
bygone brilliance of a billion stars.

She might say to you,
stirring her witch’s brew
staring up at the Eternity machine,
that we have all been alive together, here
at this Fat Chance crossroads of space
in our drip-droplet of Time
a blip from bang to wheeze
in which all histories become one
in Gravity’s dying breath.

Upon the Dog Star
she may make a last wish:
to stand at the water’s edge;
to hold, once more, the warm hand
of her only son snugly in her own;
to catch the scent of coconut
and Castile soap
in the tangled copper curls
of her island cherub.

Never did there live
such a man
as Caliban.

She dodges poles of far away trees
felled in distant storms
arriving on the tide
with a thousand green bottles
cork bobbing in the whitewash
bearing such desperate messages
from such lonely places.

She steps over the stinking mounds of
starfish, spent by some plague
of the waves sent by Proteus.

She makes no guesses as to when
the primary dreamer
of this world will awaken from
her prolonged paralysis, asleep
in the sealed up chambers
of those sublime organelles –
the mind palace of progress:

buildings with no windows,
schools with no yards,
dams with no rivers,
prairies shrinking below the
asphalt wonders of the world,
ports and stations.

She may wish, as the hour draws near,
to know our Time for what it is:
the story we tell ourselves
to lighten the leaden grief
wrought in the final moments
when our atoms abandon us
but mourn us nonetheless.

When her eyes at last fail,
she begins to see the patterns
in all things above and below –
from the tiniest roots
to the frailest  twigs
winter sleeping
bud-dreaming of bees
and the sweet perfume of her garden
where the Ilex Oak grows –
anchored in the bedrock of the
ancient rivalries between
space and solidness –
into and out of which
all spirits may pass freely.

In this solemn moment
wherein she witnesses the
blazing bauble of the sun extinguish
in the darkening sea – a sea
rocked and angered by the
hostility of storms and hurricanes
soothed by the lapping tide–
a free child of low birth
scavenges bobbing fruit
in the tepid waters
of an amniotic sea
chasing gulls down the wide beach
constructing palaces
of driftwood and kelp
watching the wading shorebirds
make the first marks of writing
in the mirrored sands
as they did then
and do now.

Our Sycorax is one of the liquid –
a creature of neither house
nor mountain but a great energy
of the valleys and great basins
the sinks of the oceans
calderas and gypsum caves
of storm clouds racing across the sea.

She gives little thought to scribes
at the moment she joins with
ever-changing waters
swimming in the deep
Protean domain,
waiting to be reborn.

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