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Ballade of the Fisherman’s Children

A Chilean fisherman, after drinking a couple of pisco shots, rests in the shadow of his boat on the beach of Quintero, Chile, 19 April 2002.

Our father is drunk again and sings a piece
Upon the deck, a snatch, a riff, a shard;
He ought not sing so crazy loud – suffice
To say the compass turns upon his word;
For neighbors want to hear – but what they’ve heard
Expressed is smiling tongue and laughing face –
A drunken fisherman who’s overboard
       With sister moon, now hushing father’s eyes,
       And brother sun, now blinding father’s voice.

He swigs his wine and holds a sloshing glass
Through which he spies opinions, preferred
Because they sound so good to folk so nice:
“I love that dirty water…!” sang the horde
Outside my father’s door – and he concurred.
For home’s a planted anchor, worldly-wise,
But progress blows with sweetened breezes toward
       Our sister moon, who’s hushing father’s eyes,
       And brother sun, who’s blinding father’s voice.

Within his wobbly tune, a note of grace
Is breaking through – to sober up and guard
His voyage. “Praise to you…” But lost in bliss,
As weevils in a bit of moldy bread,
Does he see that now twilight’s come aboard?
The shadows growing dark as sharks across
The dimming sea – they skim for us – are bored
       By sister moon, who’s hushing father’s eyes
       And brother sun, who’s blinding father’s voice.

O fisherman of men, not fish nor bird
Nor all the songs of earthly paradise
Can hook the world (the bait our dangling Lord) –
       Not sister moon, who’s hushed up your eyes
       Nor brother sun, who’s blinding Peter’s voice.