Shall-he Shanty

parrot
Jewel of the Amazon by Stephen Jesic

 

Shall-he Shanty

One man drifts upon a door –
Too far from home, too far from shore,
Without supplies, without an oar.
Or so I’ve heard it told.
Both he and raft, three days ago,
Were languishing upon the deck –
Now all the rest are ten below,
And he by chance escaped the wreck.
Instead, he gets to starve and stare
     At water, water ev’rywhere !
Beneath the fierce, unflinching skies,
He waits his death and hungry flies –
When a shadow crosses salt-caked eyes…
A figurehead in gold !

So weigh the anchor, hitch the stay,
I’ll blow you back to yesterday –
We’re all adrift and outwards bound,
An island’s waiting to be found.
So dance with the carambola,
Come to my isola of the giorno prima,
Ev’ry newborn gleamer.

One man drifts below a prow
Too far from home – but safer now,
If he can only climb somehow…
And so our yarn sets sail.
Up top, he finds no sign of life,
Yet down below are cages crammed
With birds, and beasts, and flowers rife:
As live as he, and just as damned.
A hold to behold !  All brought
     From out the land he sees to port.
But where are they who stocked this store ?
If only he could swim ashore,
To the island of the day before…
Ah, therein hangs a tale…

So drop the anchor, be becalmed,
We’re porpoised, parroted and palmed
In paradise, in distant climes
A long long way from Greenwich times.
So dance with the mola mola,
Come to my isola of the giorno prima,
Ev’ry shipworn dreamer.

 

This is based on the opening of Umberto Eco’s The Island of the Day Before.

 

 

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