October 2022 What Am I Doing Here?

  1. Why did I come here?
  2. What am I supposed to be doing?
  3. Is anyone here with me?

Song of the Lover


He saved her from the sea

and was almost drowned to bring her in

risking all to spare her

but there beside him on the shore she failed

no matter how he tried

to force from her the salt tide lingering

He suffered her to fade

her body laid and wrapped in the clay ground

With prayers and hymns each friend

pledged beside him to bear his grief as well

in days ahead—but no

his heart betrayed a rupture a slight tear

He felt it on the road

or inside sitting with a storm tide rising

And down in darkest sleep

peace caught hold of him in pale death

Yet came again this dream

of great blue whales sounding in the deep

and up from them she swam

reaching out for his hand as he awoke

startled breathless in bed

his heart clamoring like a broken wheel


One night he dreamed he held

his breath and so could swim straight down to her

Wrapping her arms round him

she fully kissed and gave to him her breath

then rose upward kicking

tumbling with him onto his moonlit bed

but there began to fade

again beside him upon the swaddled sheet

Then all his salt burst out

and his heart tore once more in that hard storm


A year or two had gone

with friends troubled to find him off alone

trudging the stony shores

but then a woman seeing him so ingrown

resolved to hire him on

to tend her orchard with a mute troth

may it blossom and fruit

that in wedlock their life might be renewed

and so it was one spring

his torn and bitter heart grew willing


His vinegar blood softened

year by year in apple-sweet children

yet life ebbed out of him

till he sat light-headed when his friends came

to catch him up on chores

and share with him the village goings-on

Day by day he weakened

and no one knew a thing to turn his tide

but drifting one clear night

out from a small cluster of stars he’d known

from youth as the Pleiades

her perfect body he saw floating in upon

his old imperfect heart

saw her hand dip between his ribs and there

give a touch to him

without so much as mending what was torn

And so his heart found ease

gaining its own off-beat gait from then

Next day with hope renewed

he propped upright and took deep breaths in bed

and a hum built within

till his chest trembled and he burst out singing

His children crowded round

drawn to the high quaver of his song

how wondrous his weak heart

filling them with fond hopes for him now

So here their voices joined

and learned his lyric quaver as they sang

weaving harmonies in

behind him rounding to a great crescendo


One evening his friends came

on news they weren’t sure what to make of

thinking it some joke

but there they stood dumbfounded at the door

hearing his high quaver

with all his children rounding in harmony

And they carried him off

down the road upon their several shoulders

to celebrate his voice

with villagers who’d known in him such loss

As he sang above them

song upon song into the dusk they cheered

but his wife and children

saw him vanish in a night ill-starred …

And it was late too late

to stay the shock of his cold body’s return

heavy in his friends’ arms

his instrument so fragile – now broken


A huge stone in that house

none could break to bury beside him

Winter upon winter

a pounding down of heart-blood storms dissolved it

And then light rain came in

rinsing those dark branches in the orchard

making way for blossoms

till at last the youngest child burst out high

like a wild canary

with only this to bring them all in

singing through their tears

bearing their father’s torn-heart quaver once more

and on through their days

urging their children to their own harmonies

redoubled again

banking off the hills and over the seas

on the tides’ dark reaches

where blue whales in deep fathoms down still sound

and out toward the Pleiades

where stars are born and die all unknown

– Eugene Marckx, 3 October 2014, 20 April 2015, 18 July 2016                              (eugenemarckx@hotmail.com)

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