The Night Ship
Roll back the stone from the sepulchre's mouth! I sense disturbance deep within, as if some sorcery had shocked the occupant's hand alive again, back to compose a document in calligraphy so dragonish that a single misstep made it necessary to stop right then and there and tear the botched draft up, begin again and stop, tear up again and scatter a squall of paper lozenges atop the architecture that the mind designs around it, assembling a city somewhat resembling the seaport of your birth, that blinking arrangement of towers and signage you now wander underneath, drawn forward by the spell of the sea's one scent, by the bell of the night ship that cleaves through the mist on its path to the pier. Surrender to that vision and the labor apprehensible as you take to the streets from the refuge of a chair so emphatically comfortable even Lazarus himself would have chosen to remain unrisen from its velvet, baffling the messiah, His many onlookers muttering awkwardly to themselves, downcast till a sudden dust devil spirals in from the dunes—a perfect excuse to duck back indoors. (The sand spangles their eyes, the little airborne stones impinge upon such faces as only Sorrow's pencil would ever dare to sketch, and even then, it wouldn't be a cakewalk, you realize. A dust devil at sea would be called a waterspout.) You fear that you have been demanded into being only to be dropped on the wintry streets of this imagination rashly, left easy prey for the dockside phantoms, unwatched and unawaited, and I know what you mean, almost exactly. This cardboard city collapses around us; another beautiful document disassembles into anguish—a cymbal-clap—and we can't prevent it. At one the wind rises, and the night ship trembles, drowsing back into its silver cloud. At two it embarks upon a fiercer derangement. We are in this together. And we will find protection only on the night ship.
Copyright © Timothy Donnelly. First published in Columbia: A Journal of Literature & Art, Spring 2004, No. 39. Reprinted with permission of the author.