If at midnight you should see in splintered canoes
fishermen whistling on a lake,
as Zairian mountains fold silent
and oars pirouette in the air;
If the fishermen shift slightly their seating
and cast out their net in a web
and with strength bred hard by the loneliness
sing loudly an old working song;
If through the leaves of banana trees flagging
you see silhouettes cut silent the water
straddling across a watchtower stripe
painted yellow by the moon of December;
drink yourself full.
Whistle back, sing back, drink yourself full
(do whatever you shall)
but do not come to me and eye me wide and say:
"I whistled and sang and drank myself full,
and swallowed the silhouettes, clean, clean as ink"
For I will say : "No."
For I will say:
"Return to the water
and yourself take a boat
or a flat piece of wood
or leave off your clothes
and cut your limbs through the water,
glassy and cold,
and push back the shore until it is far, far away
as far and as distant as tomorrow.
"And go straight to a boat
go straight to a man,
and climb within and offer your hand
while lakewater tickles your ear and your chin
and kisses the corner of your eye.
Splinter your body on the old wooden seat --
prick your skin.
Bleed if you want.
"Smell the wet rope; smell the scales; smell the slime.
"Taste his mouth as he tastes,
absorb the light that he absorbs;
light from windows in his eye,
light from water, light from sky.
And then, when his wrinkles part and his whiskers bend,
and yellow moon is on his skin,
and his mouth, it opens slowly,
and you hear him...
"Lean closer, and ask (whisper):
You whistle; what tune?
You sing; what words?
You live; what name?"
Then return to me.
Bring me your clothes, for I will clean them.
Bring me your water for I will wipe it from your body.
And we shall sit, you and I,
in the grass, by the lake,
and under a sky that is as black as tomorrow.
And I will share you some wine in a glass,
And you will share me your story.
Because once, under a yellow moon, through banana green leaves,
a fisher came fishing -- on a lake, it was midnight
a whistler came whistling -- oars pirouetted in the air
a singer came singing -- loud, in a silhouette
And I stood.
And I listened.
And I watched.
But my toes stayed dry in the sand.
And that was all that I ever knew.