Emmanuel Purdy

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Poetry  |  House: Booksie Classic
From a historical account. All kinds of criticism welcome.

Submitted: July 14, 2017

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Submitted: July 14, 2017

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A swim of sailors, laughing loud

On a sheer Barbados morn

Had slooped from Boston, teeth to toil,

Now splashed with joy reborn.

 

Speckles slipped on patchwork arms

As low legs skimmed the deep

While Quartermaster growled down

Limbs flapped in a howling heap.

 

Shoulders bare were singed by sun

And knees kept cool below;

Dunks and whoops now all around,

Wet faces were aglow.

 

Amid the smiles and shouted taunts

Not one saw the figure dark,

Who swam beneath their swishing toes:

A haughty, monstrous shark.

 

As long and silent ever was

This bull of the shadowed bay;

Hungering for a muscly nib,

He plucked from the rare buffet.

 

And into the sky then scraped the cry

Of a one whole body severed.

The rest spied down, saw darkness slip –

Through water rippled tremor

 

Of flash havoc – white wild blare!

Limbs smacked against the surf

To reach the precious lacquered deck:

Salt wood worth more than Earth.

 

“Swim as ye can swim, my lads,

Before Sharky gets to you!

Give nor a thought to other men

Or Sharky gets you too.”

 

On they flopped, like flying fish,

Then heaved for want of air,

And counted near full number when,

Paralyzed with stare

 

Saw white foam round a thrashing man

Arms stretching to break through –

“Ezekiel! Ezekiel!”

Out cried the dripping crew.

 

Ezekiel – he gasped and flailed

Caps broke above his head.

Slowly he made haven’s way;

Behind, the sea stained red.

 

And of the crew there was a one

More desperate than the rest.

For he, in panging helplessness,

Could only beat his breast:

 

“Brother mine, O brother mine!”

Emmanuel out cried.

Both of Purdy’s name were born

And both had seen him die.

 

Closer now, he pumped his hips,

That victim far from free.

And on the deck men clenched in fear

For all of them could see

 

The dreaded shark approach again

To hasten deadly due.

Sliding slow beneath the waves

It nearer to him drew

 

And ripping wide its muddied maw

Now near enclosed the man

Who reached a final frantic stab

At a dirty savior’s hand

 

Who clutched! and grasped! and pulled aboard

To the ring of brother and crew,

All cheered until they whispering saw

That Sharky got his chew.

 

Dissevered and dismembered was

Their poor Ezekiel:

His leg was missing at the hip

And blood began to swell.

 

It spilt from him upon the deck

A sticky scarlet spring;

All feet were washed in thick salt wine

Not one could stoppage bring.

 

And so it was Emmanuel

Then knelt by his brother pale

Joining hands – those fingers cold –

He pledged beneath the sail:

 

“Brother mine, O brother mine,

I will now put things right

Undo all this beast has done

Keep day from fearful night.”

 

Jaw set now with purpose known

He grasped his paring knife

Bit the blade between his teeth

Prepared to take a life

 

And stood then, high, before the sun

His shoulders brought eclipse:

The shadow cast upon on the sea

Was longer than the ship’s.

 

Into the water, bright and cold,

With a strong and sleek nose-dive

Where the monster waited, starving still,

Where blood had let him thrive

 

Into the water, cold and black,

With a stinging gasp he breathed

To the monster’s theater he was come

In his bloody home he reaved

 

Tearing waves from waves in wrath

He seethed for the shark

The crew looked on, a muted mass,

Ezekiel was forgot.

 

Emmanuel was quick to spy

His vicious enemy

It wallowed in a redded spot

Waiting like destiny.

 

He struck – and gripped its ugly chest

Between his muscled arms

Grappling ‘gainst the beast’s tough throes,

Both exacted harm.

 

It bucked – and scraped his sneering growl,

Let blood flow in to blood.

The crew saw naught but ruddy mess

Nor water, but crimson mud.

 

He struck – and though the violence was

Compressed into a dot

Their thrashing sent out waves of force

That coasts and cliffsides wrought.

 

It bucked – he struck – and so the scrum,

Until he gripped the head

And struck and struck and struck and struck

Past when the shark was dead.

 

The victor then tossed up his face

And laughed into the blue –

“Emmanuel! Emmanuel!”

Out cried the sunlit crew.

 

With haughty whoops and shimmering skin

They lugged the beast aboard

And told the frail Ezekiel

His leg would be restored.

 

Up on the rig they strung the shark,

Its bloated belly bared;

Emmanuel took up his knife

And slit as fine as hair.

 

Fish scales and seal bones

Slopped across the floor

And out there curled a nasty stink:

The decompose of gore.

 

Sticking out from in the bile

Stood white a naked foot

That, wrenched from out its putrid grave,

Emmanuel then put

 

Back to that dissevered man

Who once the leg had borne,

Who once swam smiling with his friends

On a sheer Barbados morn.

 

“Brother mine, O brother mine,”

Emmanuel implored,

“Retake this limb which all was yours

When you were whole before.”

 

He did not blink against the sun

That shone into his eyes:

Ezekiel could stare and stare

But he could not reply.

 

Emmanuel tried to recall

His body – before it was dismembered –

He nudged the leg against the man

But he could not remember.

 

As he knelt upon the deck

And crew were shivering all,

The chaplain took up the good book

And read a verse from Paul.


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