Through human sleep

Christopher Columbus is a divisive historical figure.  The Columbus Day holiday brings out clashing perspectives.  I'm aware of his mixed legacy : symbol of exploration, expanding human horizons, a round globe - and also an image of Western imperialism, cultural hegemony, genocide.  I know today's entry in the Ravenna Diagram series will come across (to most, perhaps) as culturally & stylistically obsolete.  But a poet has a right to be out-of-touch & ridiculous, occasionally.  Sometimes we have to follow the poem's lead.  Now & then a poem unfolds in a metamorphosis, transfigurement.  Symbols molt into something new.  I don't know if that's happened here, though; it's just another Henry sketch.


A bird hums low through human sleep,
hums softly lullaby,
aubade.  Ohio
bifocals their Burchfields reap.

Columbus is a Jonah still.
The outcast Genoese
casts off, a shifty breeze
of shuttered Inquisition swells

bright spinnaker for Spanish Main.
Indies glimmer in the grain;
Powhatan’s skipping maid
knots scalp & quipu in one braid –

taps down lost gold of tumbleweed
& prairie memory
to one wide planetary
estuary (harvest mead).

The bird floats feathered in her gypsy
treasure chest.  The ship
is Holigost – Time’s keep
(unfathomed yet).  Each Henry V,

grandee Philip will drop the knee
her way; each hungry soul
will stand renewed & whole
upon New Land someday (you’ll see).

Thus in the globe of Jonah’s word
the world comes round, & so
one wing’s carefree proportion
curls each creaking mast homeward.


Statue of Columbus (Elmwood Avenue, Providence)

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