flying a cloud

    the Flying Cloud, queen of the Clipper ships

    New York to San Francisco around the Horn’s fierce flaming sea.

            Yes.   You.   Like
            a clipper in the mists
            her masts raked
            ready for the gale.

            They wonder why
            I love the sea.

            One glance as mine,
            they’d understand.

            Just as I follow
            fallow wind.


          Tempest words

          Say it once.

          My ocean open arms, tempest
          skips like a stone over bare crests,
          lays pacific.

          Shudders amber breath, ocher soil,
          as roots swell under buried far sight.
          Fertile as children are.

          Say it twice.

          Bare necessity respoken, does,
          proceeds broken.   Suckles poems
          finding path between open words.

          Leave, my trust my will.
          Your good sense, much unties.

re TEMPEST (above), prompt by Dana Guthrie Martin of ReadWritePoems
Transliteration is the process of selecting a text in a language you don’t know and then doing a faux translation of the work based on what you “think” the words mean. The key is not knowing the language you are translating from so that your faux translation won’t be sullied by knowing what the words actually mean. Point being, this process will produce unexpected results not really planned ahead, so there’s an element of real discovery and surprise, even for yourself.

Transliteration process notes:
After several unsatisfying attempts, I bent the process some, taking one of my own older poems, translated into Portuguese, then proceeded to resolve English words from that.

Is there a layer beneath my own abstractions of language?   How willing am I not to lead, but follow their own relationships?

re STORM (following), is the older poem put through a translator into Portuguese.   (allowed to sit for a day as well, thus more “foreign” when I came back to do the transliteration)



          An ocean shore shouldered storm,
          brunt thunder waves, far pacific eye.

          Sundered amber tress, kelp conceals
          temptations of earth and rock, luring
          froth into fertile nests.

          Bare elbow to thigh upright, white,
          crested processional.   Stellar furrows
          awaiting seedling roots.

          Afterward, a tussled bed.
          more stone, more sea.

Three (nature) poems selected here to give company to that image of the clipper ship, Flying Cloud.   Somewhat obvious that name, more sail than sky when fully unfurled.   Built for speed, built for storms, and in fact the full sail wings were not even brought open without prospect of at least gale force winds.   Flying Cloud sailed in the days before the Panama Canal, so transcontinental meant a route around the far southern Horn with its dangerous winds and seas.   Not all ships survived this perilous journey.
Flying Cloud set the speed record for that route, a record lasting for over one hundred years.

By way of scale in the 1850’s a typical merchant ship sailed about as fast as a person might walk in a hurry.   However the new breed of Clipper ships could do sustained speeds in excess of twelve knots, about the pace of an easy bicycle ride.   In 1851 on her maiden voyage Flying Cloud set a new world record sailing through the Golden Gate after a passage of only eighty-nine days.   No wooden nor iron windjammer ever bested that record.   Not till 1989 did a modern yacht beat that record in eighty days.

Please fully expand the Flying Cloud image.   I recognize it is not the highest quality image, but perhaps that even adds to the sense of being there on deck with that intensely vibrant “flying” wind-borne ship.

I confess a certain passion for ships and wind, of which these clipper ships were a summit of excellence.   And if you’ve ever sailed out of sight of land, there’s an experience, no matter how much you explain, that eludes any casual telling. When your very world moves beneath your feet – it means something unique in being alive.   (no apology is what I mean to say)

Beauty is the notion in transit here.

2 thoughts on “flying a cloud

  1. I’ve sailed out to sea and it is indeed a wondrous and almost scary thing. Can you image what it felt like when they thought you might find the edge of the Earth? I really love the last of the three poems, particularly the last few lines.


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