Saint Sava (saint_sava) wrote,
Saint Sava

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Ansible twenty.

O there was a lofty ship, and she sailed on the sea
And the name of the ship it was the Golden Vanity
And she feared she would be taken by a Turkish enemy
As she sailed on the lowland, lowland, low
She sailed on the lowland sea.

Ten years. This is me, in the passenger seat friend's beat up old ute, at three in the morning in the bitterblack cold of the southwest desert in February. Everything I care to call mine is in a 1964 Airstream trailer -- you know, the kind that looks like a metallic loaf of bread -- on the back of this clapped-out International. What little conversation we shared was silenced by the rise of the gibbous desert moon a couple of hours ago, and the sound of Supertramp's Even in the quietest moments, tinnily trickling out of a pair of ancient Realistic speakers, is putting up a tired and reluctant competition to the unchanging drone of the tires against the I-40.

Up stepped the cabin boy, just the age of twelve and three
And he said to the skipper, "What will you give to me
If I swim along side of your Turkish enemy
And I sink her in the lowland, lowland, low
I sink her in the lowland sea ?"

Don't know what it was, really, that called me here, except that it had no voice. There's a cruel comedy of a garden on my front porch step: three fulgurites I've planted in the barren earth, their glassy arms reaching toward the merciless southwestern sky. Underneath the rear window of my Airstream I've stenciled the words no podría suceder aquí.

"O, I shall give you silver and I shall give you gold
And the hand of my daughter if you will be so bold
As to swim alongside of our Turkish enemy
And you sink her in the lowland, lowland, low
You sink her in the lowland sea."

At night, the voices come. Through the ether come the sounds of Navajos talking on the ansible, sounding for all the world like a box of copper springs falling out of a wet matchbox; the leathery, distant voices of Aztlan's children, lost and wandering; most infrequently, the bright orange bangle of Hopi words rattling down the antenna. Mostly nothing; squelch, pangloss, an imbroglio of words spoken at infinity: these were the sounds heard in Shinar when the first debris from the Tower of Babel hit the ground.

The cabin-boy made ready, and overboard jumped he,
And he swam alongside of the Turkish enemy
And with his little drillin' tool he bored holes three
And he sank her in the lowland, lowland, low
He sank her in the lowland sea.

Fifteen years. Sixty miles east-northeast of Iyanbito. My fingernails are dark, clubbed, and deeply grooved. During the day, I study languages I shall never again speak. One affirmation: a great spring thunderstorm darkened the eastern sky to near-black in early evening, the light of the setting sun illuminating the featureless desert in brilliant gold.

Then he turned around, and back again swam he
And he called to the skipper to haul him from the sea
But the skipper would not heed, for his daughter he did need
And he left him in the lowland, lowland, low
He left him in the lowland sea.

Once in a lifetime, water flowing under. Twenty years. I have learned the languages of the Hopi, of the Navajo, and, most difficultly, of the coyotes, which now in retrospect seems by far the simplest. More importantly, though, I have lost my own language; it is this divestiture that has made all the others possible. It rained on an April morning. Kafka said that one thing in life, truly experienced, is sufficient, and a desert in bloom is my one thing. I came here in the hope of hearing a single beat of the desert's geological heart.

His shipmates pulled him out, but upon the deck he died
And they wrapped him in his blanket so very soft and wide
And they cast him overboard to drift upon the tide
And he sank beneath the lowland, lowland, low
He sank beneath the lowland sea.

All I know now is that I'd far rather be needed than loved.

O there is a lofty ship and she sails on the sea
But she sails without a cabin-boy the age of twelve and three
And she fears she will be taken by a Turkish enemy
As she sails on the lowland, lowland, low
She sails on the lowland sea.
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