Tâmtu-me-šara
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They called her the shining one, ellituma, and it was true;
the faces in that hollow and darkened hold are limned in green,
the rest of each only conjectured from the arrangement
of jawbone, cheekbone, lip.

(Each eye is kindled by its own bright spark.)

It is a lie, that sailors care only for soft flesh,
bright mouths, these things that can be bought.
The crew, rather, is entranced, not by softness but
by the stark absence of it, in that way only humans master;
they would approach a thunderstorm just to see it break.

They say she has seven heads;
but the crew manifest marks forty-three,
one for every set of eyes.
Every man has his weakness -
here drunkenness, here gold-lust,
here fear that all his works upon earth may crumble to naught.
Hah! There is clay, and there is clay again.
The cliffs are devoured from their edges,
slowly,
inexorably,
sea-stacks crumble and houses slide,
and when every piece of the dock is replaced,
is it yet the same dock, or no?

And each man knows what is written,
as an impression upon her brow, in the arch of her palate:
there is no kindness here; have what you win.
For who can make with her a covenant? Who could pierce
her jaw with a fish-hook, or her head with a spear?
These accoutrements of order, these trappings of control -
it is a mockery. A pale imitation
of a votive, as fruits and meats,
great bolts of insipid-white cloth,
a chest of bark ground charcoal-fine
are paraded past,
over the gangway for division by the captain.

Yet each man has but what he wins.
But there is no kindness here, and the sea recks no authority.
The captain burns.

And the second law of thermodynamics
holds that entropy can only ever increase;
all created things - wood, wine, steel -
awaiting, straining only for the fire,
or the rot,
or the rust to loose them from their bonds of order.
So do rags soaked in pine pitch.
Casks of rum.
Barrels of black powder.
A single loose spark, and all energy, like rivers hoisted on hills,
runs down and ever down to the sea.

Diatoms, foram shells, and rust fill nostrils, ears, mouths.
There is clay, and there is clay again.
Nothing else is true.

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