2021 – Chanctonbury Cup Winner

Ionian Cruise

By Diana Mitchener

Perplexed, hunched in a corner of the ballroom
along with fellow travellers who hit the bar last night,
a sailor, bearded, swarthy, muscle-bound,
honeyed lotus slowing down his thoughts,

his hair swarming with lice, tunic and cloak ragged,
calves like oak trunks, bare, calloused feet,
toe nails curled like talons. He makes an effort

to take in his surroundings. A palace, assuredly,
spacious and marbled, ladies in floaty garments,
slim-shouldered men with soft, unscarred skin.

Harsh, blaring discordant sounds assault
his pulsing head. He closes his eyes, hopes
to awake in a familiar cave. Some-one shouts

‘Ithaca.’ He scrambles out to the deck – sees the sea
far, far below him and a familiar outline
of his own beloved coast passing, passing

the two bold headlands that shelter the cove
that is within mooring distance of his shore.
Tries to reach out over the rail, tries

to make sense of the vastness of this vessel
humming at speed without visible crew,
without mast or sail.

Roars at the helmsman.
Curses Poseidon for thwarting his landing.
Entreats Athene. Screams for Zeus.