The Ballad of the Bone Boat
Allen Grossman (1932-2014)
I dreamed I sailed alone
In a long boat, a white bone;
Like a strong thought, or a right name
The sail had no seam.
The mast, and its shadow on the sea,
Fled like one high lonely tree
Bent with the weight of the wind-fruit sown
By the cold storm.
It was a dream of dignity
When I steered on that plated sea
With a seamless sail, and a boat like a bone,
In a fair time of the moon.
There was no rudder in the long bone boat,
The compass was a stone –
The air was empty of the deep sea gull,
And gone was the cry of the loon.
The sea and the sky were one dark thing,
The eye and the hand as cold.
Unbound was my hair, unbound was my dress;
Nothing beckoned or called
But the words of a song
That had death in its tune
And death in its changes and close –
A song which I sang in the eye of the moon,
And a secret name that I chose.
And this is the song: “Straight is the way
When the compass is a stone,
And the sail has no seam, and the boat is a bone,
And the mast is bent like a tree that bears
The wind-fruit of the moon.”
And now I sing, O come with me,
And be at last alone;
For straight is the way in the dream of the boat
That is a long white bone.