At Anchor: The Real Situation
for Bob Marley, Bavaria, November 1980
Here is the brilliant morning on a fishing boat,
this is the dream a dying man has in midwinter,
the world covered in light and shadow—he dreams
of St. Ann’s Bay, of the murmur of soft waves.
The sea is familiar as all dawns are familiar.
We walk into them knowing it is our sack
of troubles that we spill open to color
the sky. But here on the boat, at anchor,
apart from the ordinary lull of the easy
tide, there is a certain peace.
He cannot know that in six months
the weight of locked wool on his shoulders
will be lifted, that in the soft gloom of a German
chalet in deep January he will anticipate with terror
his death, rewriting his theology of eternity, shadowed
by the swirling clouds, the bickering sycophants,
the friends who will not stop to pray, frightened
as they are by the end of the crusade, the last
triumphant march through the world’s plaza where
the faithful Milanese, one hundred thousand strong,
stand beatific under the benediction of brutalizing music.
And here he already knows that his last songs
convey the weight of a man sitting on the sea,
staring out into the slithering metallic green
and imagining his words as prayers.
This is the burden a poet must carry with him
to the sea, the burden for a truth unfettered
by the promise of another morning. The sea
is a continuous tomorrow, so unremarkable
that it becomes an exquisite now:
what a lofty standard of truth it is for a poem.