© Astrid van der Pol
In 2015 a sailor, who probably died of a heart attack or stroke, was found drifting in his boat, mummified. Air, heat and the saltiness of the sea helped mummification. Police were called to identify him by the objects on the boat.
This is a work of fiction inspired by the image.
Mosquitos buzz in the sail’s ear and breeze
nudges a corpse across the South Pacific.
This salt-dried sailor, resting his head
on his arm — part nap, part knuckling under–
is that gory visage still singing
so beautifully it moves the wind and trees
as he floats down the River Stix.
With tide-tables untested, food untasted,
the cockpit closed its eyelid long ago
but mummyman sails on.
Police search his boat to identify
the sea-baked face and discover a wife.
Thirty years together. Photos reveal
those two hooked fish, took shifts in hammocks
and enjoyed year-long bird song.
They woke to red junglefowl,
hand-picked mussels, and waves breaking
four times, ruffles on the sea’s blue skirt.
But paradise needs the snake.
Research interviews reveal she left him.
Did he wish love was simple?
All Orpheus had to do is walk to the light
to have a second shot at paradise.
Here there is no magic.
The transmitter’s black coil hangs
like a severed life buoy.
The sea sculpts a hollow man.