On the pilgrim journey from the cruel slave shore
To the land of my hopes and aspirations
I find myself ominously becalmed, in the doldrums,
As I cross the equator of my life.
Thus far, lusty trade winds thrust me strong and true,
Strong purpose set my bearing clear.
Now waned to naught, the breeze is light
Though beauteous skies, yet death is nigh.
Without the hand of wind's fair breath,
We'll starve and shrivel on the deep.
Hoist the mainsails, fore and aft, mizzen, topgallants, royals, all,
Unfurl every inch of canvas
To snare each hint of wind
Yet not a whiff we trap.
Pump brine on sails and drench them well,
But nothing, save eerie silence.
For days, nay weeks, we loll, rudderless, still,
Lazily drifting, revolving,
As the merciless sun beats upon our brows.
Sloth, torpor, apathy creep into our souls.
"Scrub and holystone the decks!" the bosun roars,
The hands strike up a shanty as they toil.
Oppressive gloom is not far off.
Painting the barque from stem to stern lifts our spirits some
Yet still, without purposeful breeze, despair is close at hand.
Sleep becomes my friend, the sleep of the damned.
Loafing, eating, loafing some more,
Grog, salt horse, and weevily biscuit our dreary fare,
What shock can wake me from deathly reverie?
Another pilgrim in another world,
Has met this Slough of Despond.
The joys of port seem distant now,
A quart of ale, a hot fresh meal,
A feather bed, a lusty wench,
Eager kids upon my knee, endless tales to tell.
Now aimless, shiftless, good for nothing,
I drift as years glide by.
Going through the motions, heart elsewhere,
I stumble like the living dead.
Where have I come to in my life?
Why do I do what I do?
This stranger, is she my wife?
Whose kids are these?
This job, I loathe, detest,
Yet the treadmill trundles on.
I had such noble dreams,
Now faded, jaded, doom invaded.
Without vision, the people perish,
I thirst, yet He promised
To give me the water of life
That would never run dry
And I would thirst no more.
In this wilderness I wander,
As Israelites of yore,
Directionless upon the featureless sand.
"Be still my soul, and know that I am God,"
He calls me in my dream.
And then I see
The well I must dig.
"Go deeper, ever deeper
And you shall find
The aquifer your soul craves."
Prayer comes hard, yet I try
But when He answers me
It is in form of friend
Who nudges me where I must go.
"Repent, come clean,
Cleave ill from good,
Confess and amend,
Listen, and stop talking!"
When the student was ready,
The teacher appeared,
Truly a blessing from on High.
I toil and moil, with spade and pick,
Buckets and piles of earth I mound.
This inward journey to roots of earth, and tree and soul.
The tree of sin, its farthest depths and tendrils extirpate.
Alone, I'm lost, but his clear eye
Shows hidden chains to break.
Aeons of death, layer by layer
Transcend and overcome I must.
I dig on faith, no treasure do I know,
Till the gusher comes and I feel
The endless living water flow.
My well is dug,
Cool delicious water nourishes my soul.
Never again shall you thirst,
If sand clogs not your well.
Hope stirs, wells within me,
And then, as if for the first time,
I see the face of my beloved
And know that she needs me.
She covets that water I have found,
But I give her little,
And help her dig her own well.
Life and love course through my soul,
Invigorated, I seek new goals
Regret of lost years
Tempered by optimism
Of what's to come.
Rip van Winkle must have felt alike
To wake from years' long slumber
Presumed dead, his life renewed,
New aims pursued.
My breeze has come,
We hit the trades
"Reduce sail, lest we founder!" bellows the cap'n.
The heady rush through pristine sea
With phosphorescent wake
Brings joys to my waking soul
The noon day sun gives latitude, chronometer gives long,
The distant shore once past hope
Now closer day by day.
The crew now dance a merry jig
Or skylark far aloft.
A pure gold coin nailed to the mast
For he who first spies land.
Tearful I recall the stormy cape
When tack upon tack
We barely advanced, broke masts, broke bones,
The icy nether regions near devoured us whole,
Till angelic light did guide us through
And safe haven found.
Rested, provisioned, repaired, set sail once more
Across the mighty blue
We hugged the coast till north we found
And spanned Pacific deep.
Fabled Cathay and Chosun beckon
From setting of the sun
Till "Land ho" is called and we emerge
To gape upon fair shores.
The whiff of land was close at hand these many days.
Yet Father is this the land
In which my soul delights?
Or just a graveyard for my bones and mouldering flesh?
The Lord replies, with tear stained sobs from grateful eyes,
"You, you my son, are the dwelling place of my soul,
And with your wife, and kids and tribe,
Together build our Paradise."