At Sea

by James Como (January 2019)

Nine Daughters of Ægir, Nils Blommér, 1850




Now too late for Mass in Lucca

(as we mark north to Livorno), I

incline over the railing, wind-whipped,

pulled by the roil of fatality from a wine-dark sea.

I –

nine appear

nine appear

like alabaster, wafting,

or wanting to frolick.


So close that we might touch,

the largest eye-to-eye,

unfurled, perfect and still,

though surely racing to keep pace:

with a planet lurching about our star

and with me,

            freeborn and forlorn.

            forlorn yet freeborn. 


Probing?  I cannot say.

Delighting in her own implacability.  


And so had I a bow I do know:

and so had I a bow I do know

I would do murder but for some mariner’s curse.

(Who among us has never wayfared so?)


Then, frightened, I fall –

no.  It is she who rises

abruptly, the others (their work done?)

dropping into abiding mist.


At once I wish them back,

to see how it is they haunt:

memories riding streams of unrelenting time. 



they are someone else, nursing. 

So, thankful, I repent.



James Como is the author, most recently, of The Tongue is Also a Fire: Essays on Conversation, Rhetoric and the Transmission of Culture . . . and on C. S. Lewis (New English Review Press, 2015). His forthcoming book, from the Oxford University Press, is C.S. Lewis: A Very Short Introduction.

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