I woke up in the sea and
It was grey and
It was cold and
I had but a
Broken piece of a
Broken ship to hold
The stars that hung above me
In unfamiliar constellations
Spawned a sickness in my stomach
By way of tremendous trepidation and
As my legs grew weary kicking and
My hands gained splinters sticking
I turned my eyes o’er the turbulence
But for what, I do not know
To my surprise, I spied at hand
A lonely house at a distant span
Bathed in a lantern’s sickly yellow glow
With numbness threatening to make me lame and
My clothes clinging tightly to my frame
I swam in hopes I’d not grown mad
Into the waves, mouth full of brine
I sobbed and bobbed and spat and whined
I chattered, sputtered, sank and stuttered
Until at last solid purchase was had
I retched with relief, then
Moaned low and hoarse
The sand ‘tween my fingers fine and coarse
With heavy ears and a handful of fears
I raised my head to the house I’d come upon
Mind and body soundly beat
Ocean tongues lapping my feet
I rose with singular need to carry on
The curtains were still, the windows dark
The outer walls serene and stark
The door wholly unimpressed as I approached
I reached for the knob and gave a twist
Found to my bemusement it did not resist and
Strived for silence as I then encroached
I noticed first the carpet weave
Which did my aching soles relieve
The softness there between my toes
Kneading as my temp’ture rose
I crept and scouted through the halls
Too chilled and scared to risk a call
To wake what residents might lie within and
I realized my plan was thin but
I knew not where my tale’d begin
So I did hem and haw and pause and stall
I left a trail damp and damning
While my all went to staying standing and
I staggered into a den of some grandeur
Art and trophies on floor and walls
Hardly room to store them all
These totems that through decades did endure
I spied antlers of half a dozen beasts
Portraits of the finest feasts
A display of snow globes two score deep
A suit of armor that looked asleep
A piano, a lute and a lyre
But though the richness of these things amassed
Compared to my own, far surpassed
My eyes were jarred from left and right
To take in with a mild fright
A crooked man seated by a crackling fire
“Come in, come in,” he gently said
I tried to speak but wheezed instead and
With a shame I couldn’t explain, I took a seat
I fidgeted in where I’d set
Knowing I was getting the leather wet but
He insisted I relax and enjoy the heat
“I don’t know what to say”, I said
“I’m so sorry to intrude.
My appearance and demeanor…
I’m sure I come off terribly rude.”
“Put your mind at ease, my friend.
You’ve been through an ordeal.
My home is yours until you’ve gained your strength.
Take some time to heal.
For one so drenched from head to toe,
You look thirstier than any man I know.”
He procured, then, a cup of tea
From where I did not see but
It was aromatic, it was warm
It tasted both of honey and orange and
Feeling returned to my legs and arms
I said, “My name is-” but he waved
“I know who my house saved.
The defiant eyes, the dimpled chin.
Crow’s feet borne of troubled sin.
You looked for storms, boy, and one you found;
A storm that almost left you drowned.
I can see you wonder how much fault is yours,
What drove your journey so far off course.
The answer, surely, is one of choice:
The one you make despite a voice of
Reason, a conscience disagreeing.
This is what happens when you
Live not by feeling but by seeing
How much you can get away with and
Just how far you can go.
Those choices led you here, this house,
Quite near the end of your bumpy road.”
I found a response hard in coming and
Myself quite offended
How could this feeble hoarder know
What outcomes I’d intended
“I’m grateful for your tea, sir, and
The comfort of these flames but
If I’m completely honest,
I take umbrage at your claims.
You say you know me clearly, but
How could that possibly be true?”
“Relax,” he urged, “it’s quite simple.
I know because I’m you.
I’m the you who made right choices.
Every one, in fact.
I’m the you with fame and fortune and
All my dignity intact.
My den is filled with treasures from
Ages past and countries far and
Diplomats invite me to their dinners
Even though I know not who they are.
It took me years to get here,
So I built this house myself
As a monument to my endurance,
My accomplishments and health.
The ocean that so plagued you?
That made you claw and gasp?
I never saw it in my journeys until
You scrabbled from its grasp.”
“Wait,” I said, a sudden drowsiness upon me
I realized belatedly there must be something in the tea, but
Answers I needed, especially now
If any of this was truth
“Tell me,” I managed, with lids suddenly heavy,
“You had even a flawless youth?”
“I made the right choices,” he repeated again,
“From childhood to now, and
As a result, I’ve reaped what I’ve sown.
A more fulfilling life couldn’t be asked for,
But for one thing: I…am alone.
There are pictures of me with the famous,
The prestigious, the world-renowned,
But not one of myself with a woman who
Could ever settle me down.
My bed has always been half empty.
Even when it’s not, there’s a great divide and
I’ve found, though the spotlight adores me,
There’s a ‘me’ I’ve tried always to hide.”
“This is the me that does right?” I mumbled.
“The one with no mistakes of his own? Then what chance do I have, who’s slipped up, oh so often?
Am I always destined to wind up alone?”
“Not all who are right are righteous, my boy, and
Not all who do wrong will be damned.
Remember no matter how many crossroads you come to,
It’s most important to always take a stand.”
My breathing grew heavy and my eyes closed
A sleep was swiftly descending
Yet my mind was a swirl of chaos
Even as my body was mending
“One last thing,” I heard the older me say,
“One more thing before you go.
Can mistakes lead to love, or a better life than mine?
For your sake, I hope, but I do not know.”
There was nothing.
I woke up on the beach and
It was black and
It was dry and
It was nothing for this
Broken piece of a
Broken man to cry