“Cruise”

A weekly poem, read by the author.
Sept. 11 2012 6:00 AM

“Cruise”

120905_POEM_manonboat

Photograph by Jeff Clow/iStockphoto.

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear James Longenbach read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.

First there was the luggage, then the ship.
A centaur followed us, his legs a man’s, his face a girl’s—
Some of us unfolded deck chairs but our books
Survived no better than the flag.
By the end of the week they were shredded.

The god sits on a throne of gold and ivory.
On his scepter sits an eagle.
His robes and sandals, too, are fashioned of gold
.

I could go on like this; there was
Nothing on the ship but time.
Time to read, to think, but mostly
Time to read nothing, to think about nothing.

Zeus is long since melted down
Though you can see the molds
From which his robes were cast.

In the middle of the sea, no land in sight, you might be anyone.
Except you’re never in the middle, you’re at the edge.

Why won’t you come with me,
Why must I go alone,
Cried the first man ever to die, no one
To accompany him, no comrade, no lover or child.

I could have stayed in our stateroom forever,
Except that I was hungry, I had to eat.
And when the ship docked finally in Marseilles

I packed up my toiletries,
I thanked the porter, called a cab.

For Slate's poetry submission guidelines, click here. Click here to visit Robert Pinsky's Favorite Poem Project site.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 2 2014 8:07 AM The Dark Side of Techtopia
  Life
Dear Prudence
Oct. 2 2014 6:00 AM Can’t Stomach It I was shamed for getting gastric bypass surgery. Should I keep the procedure a secret?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 2 2014 7:30 AM What Put the Man in the Moon in the Moon?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?