Don’t try it.
If you try to sail by poetry,
you are lost.
You will wash up on shore 10 days after you drown,
face down with a spavined copy of Keats’ poems
in your back pocket, your heart
that does not burn,
instead of gliding into a harbor
with the late afternoon sun glinting on the water,
your friend pouring wine
into your glass.
sail by stars
and wind and waves and sun, and leave
poetry for the
earth, where the words rise
and billow the sails of your heart
so that it races across the green hills –
your future is there in the spyglass,
your history caught in the keel that
takes you the long way around,
so that you
arrive when the shadows
are so tall they are nearly
but not quite
your candles yet unlit,
your dreams not yet dreamed.
Shelley’s friend Captain Roberts watched them sail away from a lighthouse and as the storm got worse he began to grow worried. He took a large boat out to sea and offered to take Shelley and Williams on board, but Shelley refused the offer. A sailor said through a speaking-trumpet, “If you will not come on board for God’s sake reef your sails or you are lost.” According to the sailor Williams tried to lower the sails but Shelley grabbed him by the arm and wouldn’t let him. The boat sank in the Gulf of Spezia later that evening. When Shelley’s body washed up on shore ten days later a copy of Keats’s poems was found in his back pocket. Though he was cremated, his heart did not burn.