Landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth


Kate Colby

The moving walkway is coming to an end;
please watch your step.

 
With movement as our medium
we’ve stopped thinking
to make it our subject
 
everybody’s got sea legs.
 
Pilgrims stagger
up the littoral, all
hats and axes and
clasped hands of
supplication     (here
 
                     the unmanageable
                     accretion of details
                     is the steeple
 
                     take refuge in detail
                     we pilgrims of stasis
                     see winter in winter
                     even summer: green-
                     head traps, lobster bibs,
                     picks, claw elastics
 
                     my placebo seasonal
                     affective disorder.)
 
Here they come
from a cold skiff
emptying into
a bright New World
white with space
and snow like dead
pixels pushing the pine
boughs downward.
 
The upraised branches
of the deciduous suggest
their prayers and their
weakness, their sleep-
swollen faces, pillow
creases, an unlikely site
of historical interest.
 
But information is
selected for survival
 
      my shaken perceptual
      punnett square says
      reply hazy, try again
 
      so, I’m having a field day
      on the cutting room floor
 
      my nest of remnants
      my as-yet best effort
 
      (there were riot doors
      in my college dorm)
 
            and no one ever
            remembers a martyr
            except for being dead.
 
History has taught us anything:
record your deeds in irreducible
materials, travertine and code;
at least leave behind a pile of
crumpled clothes on the floor
to suggest the body that once
became them, becomes them
again; a foundation
whose seamless joints don’t need
mortar to withstand centuries;
press them up against an edge
with the thumb, pull, and make
curl up like ribbon, a pretty thing
lacking function, but much more
dimensional this way.
 
Hiram Bingham staggering up the mountain –
 
      Here the horizon
      is around you
      a hovering halo
      of vapor and smoke
      bromeliad and blood.
 
      A site virtually unseen
      but I see the moon
      and the moon sees me
      making out in the back
      of the screening room.
 
Everybody’s fighting
with empty scabbards
crying in the sea
drowning in the sound
but believe me, they’ve
left an ocean off the map;
I’m floating face-down
in it, my tender affective
gills choked with wrack
 
needles without eyes
carpet the floor
of the forest.
 
A tree falls – and they
have no ears, either, but
 
the sound of three hands
clapping sounds like
clapping.