Author Topic: AT LAST I KNOW THE SECRET OF IT ALL  (Read 14176 times)

Offline x-man

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« on: February 16, 2020, 05:20:18 am »
Gang, I should have posted this before TYPHOON.  The 2 poems are about the same phenomon—TYPHOON being a more mature reflection.

When I was 18, I  ran away to sea, and to my great surprise caught the eye of Blake, the biggest, toughest man on board ship.  What he ever saw in a scrawny, needy, clingy, screwed-up kid I'll never know, but he did, and I am grateful beyond measure.  We were aboard a surveying ship charting the floor of the central and north Pacific Ocean.  Just being at sea is exciting, but being aboard that ship was amazing.  I have sailed on merchant ships as well as survey ships, and know how different survey ships were from merchant vessels.  Survey ships—at least at the time—had aspects of living out a pirate movie, and to an 18-year-old who was emotionally very young for his age, it was a spectacular introduction to the grown-up world. We crewmen quite consciously liked to think of ourselves as the last of the old-time wild-and-wooly sailors, and that is how we behaved in port.

 At first I hung out with Blake with groups of other crewmen.  He was the alpha-male, the centre of attention, and he had the only car.   But one night returning to the ship we were alone.  When I thought about this later I wondered, because we were alone for the first time.  Then I realized he had set it up that way.  When I got to know him better I came to realize he had a knack for setting up situations.  He could be very clever about it, and I delighted him with my amazement at each new surprise  The parking lot was very dark and  at some distance from the ship.  We sat in the car talking for a few minutes, and then...  I protested—just a little—certainly not enough to make him stop. I just said, “Somebody's going to see us.”  “No, they won't,” he replied. “And what if they do?” 

After that there were no more groups.  It was the two of us--in port taking off together after work, at sea trying to be discreet.  The close quarters of being aboard a ship made keeping secret anything like that  impossible.  You wouldn't believe how much sailors gossip.  The entire crew knew what was going on, but no one said a word—certainly not to Blake--he would have wiped the deck with them.  I saw him do this for other reasons. He always won—When he was in a fight, the excitement amongst onlookers was not wondering if he would win, but how long it would take.  Needless to say, no one said anything to me because I would have told him, and it would end up the same way.  But actually, they were a pretty accepting lot, and didn't really care, except I am sure for some sly smiles and knowing looks.  I think it actually provided welcome fodder for the coffee-time gossip mill.   

Blake and I fell profoundly in love--I was a total stranger to any kind of love.  I came out of a childhood of terror.  I knew nothing but criminal physical, emotional and sexual abuse from my mother while my father did nothing to stop her, but was distant and uninterested in my or my sister's fate.  Blake was a revelation.  He was my bright shining sun, in whom the rest of my world shone only by the reflection of his light.  My life is divided into ”before Blake” and “after Blake.”  His presence in my life is like an Everest looming up through the clouds of my being.  He has been gone for a long time.  You might think that at this distance I would remember most vividly the fantastic adventures we had together—and they were many—or the great sex—and it sure was, but it is his loving touch that is my strongest memory by far.

However radical an effect on my life, his touch could not undo the damage the abuse of my childhood had left me with.  Because of that abuse, my life—literally just being alive--has always been very tentative.  But Blake's effect on me was to inoculate me against my mother's poison, and to show me 
that life need not all be unrelenting despair.  My shrink told me that had Blake not been there when he was, I would have been dead long ago from suicide, alcohol, drugs—all of which were a part of my life--or if I had lasted to the 80's, of AIDS.  Given my reckless behaviour I would have been amongst the first to fall.  Blake saved my life.  I would have gladly laid down my life for that man with no
hesitation, and I have never ever thought of doing that for another being.

Oh, the first line references Botticelli”s painting The Birth of Venus.  My title is a line from Ah Sweet Mystery of Life in the operetta Naughty Marietta by Herbert & Young, specifically the 1935 film with Jeanette MacDonald & Nelson Eddy.  These days the film may seem kitchy and out of date—but so is my heart.
                      AT LAST I KNOW THE SECRET OF IT ALL
                                    To Charles Robert Blake

Aboard the C&GS PIONEER, tied up at Hilo, Hawaii in late 1957,
the off-duty crew relaxes with a couple of hours of swimming before dinner.

I must call Botticelli back again, 
to paint anew that bright hot day
when from the sea a god was born.

Bare-chested sailors dive into green water,
play and laugh, and foam flies up, like diamonds in the sun.
But finally the winch's cable drops,
to pull them one by one up to the deck--
all but one.  One final time
men shout, winch groans, and now you break the surface,
rushing water rises once again to fall away.
Spinning slowly on a rusty cable you are lifted up
to step at last onto the deck.
While out around you water whirls,
you shake yourself like some dripping dog.

I stand watching from the deck above,
to see you push back your hair,
and slowly lift your eyes to mine.
Then time winds down,
winch falls silent, wind is stilled.

Conjured by your glance,                                                                                                           
I cannot move and hardly breathe.                                                                                           
It holds me tight, but you will not look away,
and my transfixed world transfigures.

Your eyes ravish me quite unexpectedly,
your desire ensnares me utterly.
Your urgency draws out from me a stealthy smile
to tell you what you know already--                                                                                                                                                             
that glance will soon give way to touch, and then unclasping.
We both were men not boys, but I so very young.
Now, memory is the province I inhabit,
but in that land you are still my hero, my champion,
my sun and moon and stars that blind me in your brilliance.

And like Pilate proclaiming to the crowd,
to the world I cry, “Behold the Man,”       
ecstatic in the astounding revelation
that you and you alone are my salvation,
that it was you and you alone for whom I had been yearning,
that your name will surely be
the final words I ever speak.
Happiness is the lasting pleasure of the mind grasping the intelligible order of reality.      --Leibniz