Tasman Comes South

You victualed your two ships and,
huddled in that vast,
un-bestowed ocean,
went forward creeping,
like a pair of reluctant soldiers
into the enemy’s camp.
But you would take with you
all the precise science
of your primitive, poxied age
and impose a calm,
an order on this southern confusion.
With the scope, the quadrant,
the straight line,
the net of longitude and latitude,
you would tackle
what had once been immeasurable song,
weeping oceanic music,
and reduce it to
the cartographer’s clinical silence.
You stood apart
within the dykes of your northern soul,
and the slithers of land you glimpsed
grew as reticent as your
gliding consort.
The continents and the islands
sensed your purpose
and would not reveal themselves.
Even amidst the telltale signs of people,
plumes of smoke, clearings,
strange vessels,
still you kept your distance.
Here on the cusp of a new world,
where landfall would mean
giving yourself over
to the pregnant unknown,
to these ones
who trumpeted you forward
to violence, to transformation,
you turned your prow,
retraced the lines of your charts
back to certainties,
back to Batavia,
not knowing what you’d seen,
touched by nothing,
having given names to horizons
that sunk beneath your wake.

Copyright Ricky Barrow 2014

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