Most of these were originally published under the title, Poems of a Lone Voyage.  In rereading them for the first time in more than a decade, I’ve eliminated many and revised others. A few seem to have been prescient.

The two parts, ‘Longing’ and ‘Being’ were divided by November 2, 1974, the day I sailed from San Diego on my first attempt at Cape Horn.

More than forty years later, In November 2015, in the midst of my sixth circumnavigation, I like to believe that I am still in the second part of my life, still being, not yet just remembering.


                                       for years he drowned

                                       the voyage in his mind

                                       and wore the women

                                       like clothes of water


                                    leaves of men of leaves

                                    rustle in the wind

                                    and blow away.

                                    in my autumn mind

                                    I rake them with my thoughts

                                    into neat cerebral patterns

                                    that descend

                                    leaves of men of leaves

                                    lie on the cool green grass

                                    of clairvoyant glass

                                    breaking beneath my feet

                                    into neat cerebral patterns

                                    without end

                                    leaves of men of leaves

                                    fall from the fallen trees

                                    far from the falling trees

                                    catch in the falling breeze

                                    my mind deceives

                                    into neat cerebral patterns

                                    once again


                                her laugher is so far from me

                                it does not seem I ever knew it

                                odd for I am not even sad

                                only tired of imagining

                                I spend my days beside the sea

                                waiting until I can be free

                                though now I doubt that can be

                                think of me

                                I am already dead

                                to everyone I knew

                                and every place I’ve been

                                I am already dead

                                think of me

                                some afternoon off Berkeley

                                as you sail across the bay

                                look down into the water

                                and think of me

                                I am not there

                                to think of me

                                and as you kiss him

                                think of me

                                did I love you

                                think of me

                                and though you never knew me

                                and though I am now surely dead

                                someday when I am deader

                                think of me in the evening

                                when you are alone and quiet

                                think of me

                                yet even as I ask it

                                I am somehow pleased to know

                                that I might as well ask sea gulls

                                eating fish contentedly

                                to think of me



                                 I’ve grown to like grey days

                                 days when the sky is low

                                 and cats’-paws lightly touch the water

                                 days when the south breeze is light

                                 and I can sit with silence on the gentle sloop

                                 it was a sunny day

                                 when my grandfather died

                                 we took him to the hospital the night before

                                 lung cancer


                                 he died so badly though

                                 not in pain

                                 but weakness

                                 whimpering for more time

                                 for more life

                                 pitiful truly

                                 a child again

                                 among nurses

                                 probably kind

                                 but, after all,

                                 it is only a job to them


                                 it must not be that way with me I vowed

                                 if chance does not kill me first

                                 one grey day when I am old

                                 but not too old

                                 --that is the trick:

                                 to give up a few good years to death--

                                 I will wait for a grey day

                                 when the sky is low

                                 and I am as calm as the wind

                                 a day like today

                                 with a slight breeze from the south

                                 I’ll cast off the mooring lines

                                 and ghost on down the bay

                                 for three days I’ll sail west

                                 and on the fourth, I’ll open the seacocks and drown

                                 alone, unknown, unburied, and I hope,  

                                 still calm

                                 romantic, you say, foolish and why?        

                                 you would not ask if you’d seen my grandfather





                                        Southern Ocean

                                        inhuman sea

                                        cold and comfortless

                                        as you should be

                                        the wind that would be

                                        is not

                                        without an albatross

                                        the ocean

                                        or me

                                        but what is a generation to an albatross

                                        and where do they go to die

                                        do their bones litter the ocean floor

                                        or do they sail on

                                        feathered wrecks

                                        stormtossed upon the waves

                                        the wind that is

                                        blows against my face


                                        an indifferent lover

                                        blows into my skin

                                        enters my fingers

                                        flows through my body

                                        more essential than blood



                                            no one who has ever read the Iliad

                                            has remembered you

                                            until me


                                        raised by a loving family

                                        your father a king

                                        you married

                                        but left for the glorious war

                                        before you had lain with your bride

                                        and in your first combat

                                        Agamemnon killed you

                                        that is all

                                        Homer gave you perhaps twenty lines

                                        blew life into you

                                        marched you into battle

                                        had you slain

                                        meat butchered by heroes

                                        the first time I read the Iliad

                                        even I did not notice you

                                        but the second

                                        during my “honeymoon”

                                        absurd word

                                        in Chicago in 1962

                                        with a woman from whom I am long divorced

                                        your brief life made me wonder

                                        what happened to your virgin bride  

                                        how soon did she forget

                                        and you

                                            did you have time for regret before you died

                                            or was the thrusting sword too quick

                                        you could not know

                                        that Homer would sing of you

                                            however briefly

                                        and that in 3000 years

                                        I at last would be touched by your death

                                        but if you had known

                                        I wonder

                                        if that would have been enough


                                        I am thirty-three

                                        seventy days alone at sea

                                        four thousand miles from port

                                        boat damaged

                                        voyage abandoned

                                        Cape Horn unpassed

                                        dream unfulfilled

                                        I am thirty-three

                                        and I am becalmed


                                        Die alone, Jean Gau,

                                        as you lived

                                        the wild cells turning your body to water.

                                        Any return to the sea,

                                        even a cancerous death,

                                        is better than remaining ashore

                                        where there is no place

                                        for those of us who voyage alone


                                        consumed by my voracious dream

                                        and wanton storms that rage

                                        without, within

                                        innocent of hope

                                        surfeit of despair

                                        I heal myself

                                        for me, for now

                                        there can be no harbor

                                        not even you


                                        my silence

                                        is like glass blown by an apprentice

                                        flawed and cracked

                                        but now I have learned to form silence

                                        and next time I will do it right



Le Restaurant Gauguin


                                        perhaps you would be amused

                                        to know how well they remember you in Tahiti

                                        a street

                                        a museum

                                        a plaque where you first stepped ashore

                                        a school

                                        even Le Restaurant Gauguin

                                        --in one of the best hotels, of course--

                                        where if you were alive

                                        they would not let you in


Old Man with Blue Bicycle


                                tiare, eight petaled star



                                flowers bloom on flowers

                                litter sidewalks

                                cover hillsides

                                even beneath the sea at Venus Point

                                fish are flowers to the reef

                                so all the more I noticed him, the old man

                                riding his bicycle along the waterfront

                                always riding, never walking

                                unshaven, wearing a battered felt cap,

                                ringing a bell angrily

                                stopping with a shy smile

                                to search trash cans

                                once, on a Sunday, he had a single loaf of bread

                                tucked under his left arm

                                Tahiti is not a place to be alone

                                and after a while I was not

                                but still I wondered about him

                                whenever I saw him

                                and wanted to speak

                                to ask what he did when not riding that blue bicycle

                                how he spent his nights

                                and came to be there

                                but my solitude was as great as his

                                and I convinced myself we spoke different languages

                                surely he was French

                                and always he looked frightened

                                on Maeva Beach

                                the young girls bloom



(When In Cape Town, South Africa, for several months in 2002, I bought a  used bicycle to ride along the waterfront.  It was blue.)

Tahitian War Dead

                                        on the Avenue Bruat

                                        overhung by trees

                                        a stone monument

                                        to the Tahitians who died

                                        in what we once called

                                        The Great War

                                        what, I thought, could possibly have made

                                        you go so far to die

                                        how odd

                                        how truly foreign

                                        it all must have seemed

                                        after this

                                        Flanders’ fields

                                        and mud

                                        and death

                                        three weeks later

                                        I write these words alone at sea

                                        their names

                                        so carefully enscribed

                                        already forgotten

                                        how odd I ever asked

                                        I, too, a glory seeker




                                        in a suburban house

                                        a boy steps back from a painting

                                        two flat planes:

                                        one brown--the desert?

                                        one orange--the sky?

                                        two geometric figures:

                                        one reclining triangles;

                                        one squat squares.

                                        diamond headed both,





                                        for a thousand years unmoved

                                        after a moment’s hesitation

                                        he leans forward

                                        and adds a yellow circle

                                        now there is only the title,

                                        he thinks.

                                        Adam and Eve?

                                        Otiose numens?



Suzanne’s poem

                                    harpooned whale or woman


                                        ghostlike white flesh

                                        stretched taut

                                        filled with sperm




                                        judge a man, then, by that

                                        against which he must strive

                                        against what

                                        if not this soft night

                                        and the wind and sea

                                        against the myth

                                        he must become

                                        and his own will

                                        the ocean waits

                                        to measure or to slay me

                                        the ocean waits

                                        and I will sail



off Arnhem Land

                                        through the night

                                        on unseen wind

                                        and unseen waves

                                        I sail unseen


                                        in deserted coves

                                        I anchor



                                        I will not be here

                                        to be unseen

                                        and the people ashore

                                        will not be here

                                        not to see me


the last island off Sumatra

                                                    islands passed

                                                    are women unloved



                                the small signs

                                that mark the boundaries of love

                                the clashes of flesh

                                the sharing of gentle shores

                                the healing of sea wounds

                                all come down to

                                my buying a cassette of the Sibelius Violin Concerto

                                and the Valse Triste

                                to replace the one she took

                                when she left

                                                                    September 23, 1982

                                        a driver’s license

                                        a set of keys

                                        some small coins, green with age

                                        the police gave her

                                        what they took from his pockets

                                        a broken body

                                        in mid air



                                        before the fall

                                        he was her only son

                                        he was my only father

                                        she never spoke of him

                                        but when she died


                                        of cancer

                                        thirty-three years later

                                        I found them

                                        in her dresser drawer

                                        a driver’s license

                                        a set of keys

                                        and some small coins, green with age



                                                            Ithaca, Illinois       


                                         Ulysses sits

                                in a condominium

                                in Evanston, Illinois.

                                Ithaca Midwest.

                                Surrounded by flatlands

                                and empty husks of stunted corn.

                                Before a fire,

                                listening to music,

                                a crystal glass

                                to his left,

                                and contemplates the distant sea.

                                He holds the world in his mind.

                                He does not dream of his next voyage.

                                Dreams are for the young.

                                Ulysses sips smoke and plans.

                                “We owe the gods a death,”

                                some cried as they threw themselves

                                against the walls of Troy.


                                Ulysses does not agree.

                                He asked nothing of the gods

                                and owes them less.

                                Still death will come.

                                It should, he thinks.

                                That we have so little time

                                is our dignity.

                                The sea is in his glass.


                        The wind is whistling around our building.

                        The whales are migrating off San Diego.

                        The ocean waits.

                        Patient has two meanings.

                        Neither comes naturally to me.