Wind like a Whetted Knife

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied

from Sea Fever by John Masefield

In the dream, I lean over the bow. Something doesn’t fit. The water is too distant and the progress slow and I feel landlocked. Maybe the ship is smaller than my wandering feet. Maybe it’s bigger than anything I could possibly steer.

Or it isn’t wrong at all and I am just too impulsive for my own good.

In any event, I jump.

And then I am plunging into an upside-down and roiling sea. Momentum carries me further in than I had anticipated and deeper than is safe. Kicking hard up, up, my lungs try to wring the last bit of air from that last scanty breath. Light wobbles. With a surge, I break the surface just as the white plates of a looming hull flash past. This angle resolves all distortions from my upper deck perch. They don’t call them cruise ships for nothing. Keel slices water. Spume and churn.

Uh oh.

Did I think I could go out for a dip and then just mosey back on board? Did I bother to scan the horizon for some other fitting shore?

Did I figure I’d grow gills?

Is it too late for a do-over?

Hollering is useless. My voice bounces across waves and ricochets off the unblinking steel scales. Now the only thing is to swim harder than ever before on the slim chance of closing the growing distance. If I make it (and that’s a mighty big If), then what? The slick walls offer no peg, no crack.

Defeat has no voice here. With every stroke, I force behind my eyes an image of a handhold and a body still surging with the strength to climb.

I have exactly one shot.

Questions boil in my waterlogged throat:

Is he the ship or is he the ocean?

Which is courage?

Which is home?
 

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