The Rescue

That’s what we live on: thinking of their rescue
And fitting our future to it. You have to see it:
First, the dry smudge above the sea line,
Then the slow growth of a shipful of strangers
Into this existence. White bows, the white bow-wave
Cleaving the nightmare, slicing it open,
Letting in reality. Then all the sailors white
As maggots waving at the rail. Then their shouting —
Faintly at first, as you can think
The crowd coming with Christ sounded
To Lazarus in his cave.
Then the ship’s horn giving blast after blast out
Announcing the end of the island. Then the rowboat.
I fancy I saw it happen. The five
Were standing in the shallows with the deathly sea
Lipping their knees and the rattle of oarlocks
Shaking the sand out of their brain cells,
The flash of wet oars slashing their eyes back alive —
All the time the long white liner anchoring the world
Just out there, crowded, watching.
Then there came one moment in the eternity of this island
When the rowboat’s bows bit into the beach
And the lovely greetings and chatter scattered —
Wait. That’s all wrong. How queer! I can see it.
The five never moved. They just stood sucked empty
As grasses by this island’s silence. And the crew
Helped them into the boat not speaking
Knowing the sound of a voice from the world
Might grab too cheery-clumsy
Into their powdery nerves. Then they rowed off
Toward the shining ship with carefully
Hushed oars dipping and squeaking. And the five sat all the time
Like mummies with their bandages lifted off —
While the ship’s dazzling side brimmed up the sky
And leaned over, pouring faces.