Anti-Cop: An Excerpt
A fog like this, Jules said, had not been seen,
without illuck, since days of sail and brine.
He stood, the white-bristled old tug captain,
on a obscure spit of planks, a slant dock
long sinking, and consigned to a dark nook
in a harbour bright with modern shipping.
In a pail of fish was his hand, a rope,
with blood and oil slick, entwined the other.
Unkinking himself, he stowed his slit knife,
and traipsing on a gimp leg, legacy
or heirloom of the sea's jealous demand,
descends, a chancred hand at my shoulder,
like a bat, or ill-starred bird spying there,
the snail-fed slats of a swaying gang-plank
until docked like the scuttled submarine,
or viewing tank of a rogue admiral
we find the roll of his dwelling quarters.
Though cramped and hollow like the interior
of a tin can, through portholes shrewdly placed
the blue world of the bay bottom showing,
and with handily-wrought driftwood furnished,
it was, nonetheless as swept and ship-shape
as any coracle in prime service.
On a table of barnacled silver,
from some rich wreck or other recovered,
and with trinkets traded among sailors,
who'd ventured to and fro from ports distant,
and with the allure of spice-mad islands,
both clam and cod he set to welcome me.
A measure of gin, sweet and clear, we shared,
and when the gods of hospitality
were appeased, Dead Jules Hart asked my business.
There was on the wall of the homely place,
a cross, a touch of some higher magnitude
(though mooted more as a ward or defense
against encroachment by those lost spirits,
drowned comrades, sunk to the ocean floor, who,
of a night, bump up against the living
in their warm circles of fraternity),
this cross I considered as I asked him:
"Twelve years it has been, in variety, since
on a night of uncommon disturbance,
with wind in the trees and on the waves,
that you, once a man friendly regarded,
returned, stooped in a form none recognized.
A gravestone they showed you, mournfully carved,
and with the wayfarer's angels adorned;
engraved too the name of one long thought dead:
you, Jules Hart, en voyage to distant shores,
in company of some disreputable sorts,
cast-abouts and expulsees from their homes,
a crew who muttered mutiny in whispers,
but engaged on the cheap by your patron,
the usurer and slumlord, Franklin Ash
in whose debt you were for rash purchases
and indentured shipped out against your will
to climes septic and debilitating.
The tales of that which befell you there tell,
all particulars, leaving nothing out,
for I, D'Arcy, the son of Franklin Ash
have come to make things right, if right be done."
The decades of pain and deprivation
burst out again on that worn face like pox,
but mastered them he did like one inured
to hardship (or with devotions passed beyond).
"Oh sir, it's you," he said, "sapling of he,
the horror, who blighted my life so hard.
Beware sir, for my hand is on the knife,
its honing my love for many a year.
But it is only the power of yonder cross
that keeps it from your neck unmanacled.
If you come sir, to make it right, for me
I will not listen, but if your remit
is remission of the deeds of your house,
then attend I will as I'm commanded
by the Justice to which we both bow."
Never so ashamed I was of my name
as in that homely can where fish float by,
where on the Trans-Continental I came,
to do penance for the deeds of my blood.